Scott’s Favorite Ultra-Quick Stir-Fry

This is one of my all-time favorite quick meals – you can literally walk in the door and have a wonderful hot and healthy meal on the table in less that ten minutes!

And, Trader Joe’s would be happy – all of the ingredients come from there: Fire Roasted Vegetables in Balsamic Butter Sauce (frozen), Organic Brown Rice (frozen), and Just Chicken (fresh chicken pieces).

Add a splash of Chardonnay (a current favorite is the Olivet Lane Estate Russian River Valley Chardonnay from Pellegrini) and you’ve got a delightful, fresh, and very tasty stir-fry. Serves 2-3.

Continue reading “Scott’s Favorite Ultra-Quick Stir-Fry”

Scott’s Favorite Prime Rib

[Update: Christmas 2019 – Be sure the checkout this YouTube video recipe for slow roasting prime rib. This recipe uses the technique of an initial high-heat (500 degrees) roasting followed by literally turning the oven off and letting the roast continue to cook in the cooling oven for two more hours. That lower heat is the key to the magic of slow roasting!]

Earlier this week as part of our holiday get togethers, we had a family group over for dinner and cooked – for the first time in a long time – a prime rib roast. Prime rib is one of those special meals – just right for the holidays with friends and family! It was delicious – accompanied by roasted potatoes, and some spinach.

Elise has a great prime rib recipe over on her Simply Recipes site. We used the 450 degree for 15 minute and 350 for the rest – although we cranked it back up to 450 again for about 5 minutes before taking it out of the oven (a technique mentioned in one of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks).

Everyone reminds you about needing to let the roast rest for 15-20 minutes after you take it out of the oven — so I will remind you here too! 😉

Scott’s ‘Lazy-S’ Easy Oven-Roasted Tri-Tips

Scott’s Lazy-S Oven Roasted Tri-Tip

Update (12/18/19): I’ve added a slow-roasted version of this recipe which makes especially delicious and tender tri-tip! If you’re making tri-tip for the holidays, try this new slow-roasted version for a special treat!

For our large Christmas Eve family get togethers, we like to serve main course meat entrees that are really easy to eat in a buffet style setting – without formal sit down dinner place settings for every guest. Most of our guests will be eating with their plate in their lap, so something lovely like a slow-roasted prime rib just won’t do.

We’ve settled on serving a combination of honey baked ham, just heated to room temperature in a 450 degree oven for little more than 5 minutes, and beef tri-tip roasts. The ham is super easy to prepare, comes basically pre-sliced (spiral cut) and preparation literally requires unwrapping it, putting it briefly in the oven to warm and then choosing which serving platter to use to present it! A couple of choices in gourmet mustards to accompany the ham and that half of the main course is ready to go!

For the tri-tips, we usually get three of them and try different rubs/marinades. My Dad particularly likes his beef plain – so one of the tri-tips will always just be salt and pepper rubbed. The others get a bit more exotic! But the rub’s not the point – the easy preparation in the oven is what these tri-tips are all about.

Doing the tri-tips in the oven sacrifices a bit of the smoky flavor from the Weber BBQ version — but the super-easy preparation and not having guests following me out onto the patio!) makes the oven version perfect for winter-time cooking and entertaining. But you’ll want to do the rubs (or marinades) enough in advance to ensure the beef ends up being very flavorful.

I call these my “Lazy-S” tri-tips – Lazy-S for Lazy Scott! Note: As I’m writing this, it strikes me that beef short ribs might just be another great holiday buffet dish. I mean the kind that have already fallen off the bone after hours of braising! I’ll have to experiment with that sometime – although on a day when I’ve got the energy and dedication required to tend short ribs much of the day!

[June 2008 Update: Looking to BBQ your tri-tip instead of roasting it in the over? See my latest, field-tested (!) recipe for grilling tri-tip on a Weber charcoal BBQ!]

[Christmas 2008 Update: We’ll be making our easy oven-roasted tri-tips again this year for our family Christmas Eve dinner!]


  1. After breakfast on the day you’re entertaining, prepare the tri-tip using whatever rub or marinade you prefer. I like to use coarse sea salt (applied heavily) along with whatever rub I’ve chose. For the plain version my Dad prefers, it’s just the coarse seal salt and some fresh ground pepper. After rubbing/marinading, put each tri-tip into a large Ziplock-style plastic bag, remove as much air as possible, seal it, and put it back in the refrigerator. Have a nice day!
  2. When you’re ready to cook, here’s the drill. Allow an hour from this point to serving.
  3. Take the tri-tips out of the refrigerator and their Ziplock bags and begin letting them warm to room temperature. Place the tri-tips into a suitable oven roasting pan (I prefer to use Pyrex baking dishes because they clean up so readily!) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  4. When the oven’s warmed up to 450 degrees, put the roasts into the oven and roast for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
  5. Open the oven and cover the tri-tips with aluminum foil. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and roast for 15 minutes.
  6. Open the oven and remove the foil. Continue roasting at 350 degrees for a final 15 minutes.
  7. At this point, the meat has roasted for a total of 40 minutes and should be just right for medium-rare — but you can’t serve it yet. Remove the tri-tips from the oven and re-cover with foil. Let them sit for 15 minutes outside the oven.
  8. Now they’re ready! At 55 minutes from when you started, remove the foil, place a tri-tip on a cutting board and slice 1/4 inch slices diagonally across the grain. Each slice will end up being 1-4 inches in length. Serve on a platter with accompanying sauces – BBQ sauce, steak sauce are good to have along side.That’s it. Enjoy! Serve with a side of Perfect Roasted Potatoes for a special treat! (Note that a second oven may be required for their combined preparation because of the temperature gymnastics used in both recipes!)

(Added: December 26, 2005)

Scott’s High Heat Upside-Down Roast Turkey Recipe

iStock_000000321397XSmall.jpgFor our Christmas family dinner this year, we roasted a 12-lb turkey that turned out delicious. For the first time, we tried a new technique consisting of roasting the bird upside down (breasts down) and high-heat kickoff followed by a two step heat reduction while roasting (a total of 3 different temperatures are used). All you do is manage time and temperature – nothing could be simpler.

In the past, we’ve done brining and that works well to yield a moist bird. But the high-heat upside-down approach used here delivered just about the best, most moist turkey we’ve tasted – without the hassles of brining. Note: I kind of had to give up brining – my wife just can’t stand the thought of open bowls of water and poultry in our refrigerator – she sees salmonella dancing everywhere around! Besides, as she says, there’s never enough room in the ‘frig anyway at this time of year!

Continue reading “Scott’s High Heat Upside-Down Roast Turkey Recipe”

Scott’s Perfect Roasted Potatoes

This Christmas Eve, instead of our usual favorite Lemon Garlic Orzo side dish, we cooked a side dish of roasted small potatoes. We found a useful recipe here and modified it just a bit — and the results were wonderful!

There’s certainly nothing particularly healthy or low-fat about this recipe – but it’s so simple and results in some great small potatoes!

Continue reading “Scott’s Perfect Roasted Potatoes”

Lemon Garlic Orzo

The original recipe for this simple side dish came from the now defunct S. Anderson Vineyard in the Stag’s Leap district of the Napa Valley. This is a great side dish for almost any meal. It’s flavors go especially well with the Roast Chicken!


  • 16 oz. orzo pasta
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 whole green onions, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to taste


  1. Cook the orzo pasta using package directions (typically, 8-10 minutes in rapidly boiling water).
  2. While cooking, mix the other ingredients together.
  3. Drain and pour orzo back into pot or bowl. Mix in the other ingredients. Garnish with a bit of parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper.
  4. Serve. It couldn’t be simpler!

(Added: April 22, 2001

Beef and Onion Stew


This recipe was inspired by the Holiday 2000 Williams-Sonoma Taste magazine.


Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add beef and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or, preferably, overnight.


3 pounds boneless, well-marbled
stew beef, cubed

1/4 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1-1/2 pounds pearl onions or
shallots, peeled

3 celery stalks, peeled and sliced

1 14-1/2-ounce can diced, peeled

1 tablespoon tomato paste


1 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

2 bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

3 whole allspice berries

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch of nutmeg

Drain beef, reserving marinade. Melt butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté onions and celery until softened, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl.

Add remaining olive oil to pan. Sauté beef, in batches if necessary, until browned, about 10 minutes. Return onions and celery to pan. Add reserved marinade, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper and enough water to just cover beef. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer partially covered, until beef is tender and sauce is thickened, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Yield: 4-6 servings

(Added: January 13, 2002)

Scott’s Favorite Restaurants

Here are my for places I’ve eaten in my travels. This list was begun in May 2002, last updated January 2009.

Note that I live on the San Francisco Peninsula — so my comments about restaurants closer to home are likely based upon repeat visits. My comments about restaurants in other cities are based upon my travels to various locales and based upon a more limited set of experiences with a particular restaurant. For every listing I’ve included the date of my most recent visit.

I’d welcome your comments on my recommendations here and suggestions for new places to try. Please post your comments here or email them to me.

Here are my favorite restaurants in the following locales:

See also:
San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants (4/3/05)
San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants (4/13/03).
New York Times: Fluent in French with a West Coast Accent, Paris in San Francisco (12/10/02).
Seattle Times Critic’s Choice (11/17/02).

  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Bellevue, Washington
    • Daniel’s Broiler
      • 4 Stars (September 2002) – Classic steakhouse in the penthouse of a tall downtown building. Great views when the weather permits.
  • Boston, Massachusetts
    • Clio, in the Eliot Hotel, 370 Commonwealth Avenue. (617) 536-7200
      • 5 Stars (October 2002) – A delightful restaurant with incredible food! Expensive (both the food and the wine!)
    • Hammersly’s Bistro, 553 Tremont St.South End. (617) 423-2700
      • An old stand-by in Boston, great food, bistro atmosphere.
    • Legal Sea Foods
      • Another “forever” place in Boston — noisy and crowded with reliable seafood. Wine list is very reasonably priced. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to the Kendall Square location. It’s always busy. Bring a good friend for conversation — or a book to read while you wait!
  • Hawaii-Kona Coast
    • Hawaiian Style Cafe, 65-1290 Kawaihae Rd, Kamuela, HI 96743. (808) 885-4295
      • A local place – cash only! (December 2007) – A great breakfast or lunch place (closes at 1:30 PM). About 15 miles up from the Mauna Lani/Mauna Kea area in Waimea. Very close to Merriman’s – on the same (left) side of Highway 19 as you get into Waimea. Big portions – I had an omelette which came with a huge portion of hash browns as well as a separate plate of great (fluffy!) pancakes!
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
    • Alan Wong’s, 1857 South King St., Third Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii 96826. (808) 949-2526
      • 4-1/2 Stars (February 2003) – You won’t find Alan Wong’s in Honolulu if you’re just driving by. In a non-descript 4-5 story building in an out of the way section of town (about 10 minutes from Waikiki) is perhaps the best restaurant in Hawaii. Street parking in this area is dicey — use the valet and feel secure! Small and intimate, an elevator ride upstairs, you’ll find a staff committed to your satisfaction with outstanding food to help ensure it! The Caesar Salad in a cheese basket with Kalua Pig underneath is just wonderful. For an entree, try the Seared Yellowfin Ahi with the most amazing Crispy Asian Slaw — absolutely delicious!
    • Roy’s Restaurant, 6600 Kalanaianaole Hwy.
      Honolulu, Hawaii 96825. (808) 396-7697
      • 4 Stars (February 2003) – This is the original Roy’s, opened in 1988. If you’ve had dinner in Honolulu since Roy’s opened, you’ve probably been here. We watched the sun go down from our second story table. Be prepared for endless choices at Roy’s — daily and regular menus and a wine list that goes on forever. You really can’t go wrong for dinner at Roy’s — if per chance you do, given all the choices you have — it’s your own fault!
  • Menlo Park, California
    • Cafe Borrone, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, California. (650) 327-0830
      • 4 Stars (All the time!) – Cafe Borrone is my favorite breakfast place. Parking is easy in the underground garage. My favorite bookstore (Keplers) is right next door. I meet friends and colleagues for breakfast here at least once a week! My favorite is their #2 breakfast — eggs scrambled with Black Forest Ham and Cheddar. With a mild sausage on the side and a mug of decaf coffee and I’m set to attack the day! The line to order can be a problem later in the morning, so be sure to get there early like I do (7 or 7:30 AM)!
    • Carpaccio, 1120 Crane Street, Menlo Park, California. (650) 322-1211
      • 4 Stars – Our old standby dinner place in Menlo Park. This is the place for Italian food in Menlo Park. You can spend more (Del Baffo) but you can’t get better price performance than at Carpaccio. Quieter than the bistro atmosphere at Left Bank. Owners also run a bigger place called Capellini in San Mateo – which is just too far from home!
    • Marché, 898 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, California. (650) 324-9092
      • 5 Stars (March 2003) – An excellent (and expensive) local restaurant that is the equal of the best you might find in San Francisco. Delightful room and atmosphere (high ceiling, spacious but small space). The small (10 max) private room looks ideal for small groups. Had the Dungeness Crab Cakes to start followed by California Halibut — both were just outstanding. Superb wine list. Great desserts (including cheeses and salad after). Wow! But hold on to your wallet! You have to pay for this kind of excellence.
    • Left Bank, 635 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, California. (650) 473-6543
      • 4 1/2 Stars (March 2003) – A wonderful French bistro restaurant on Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park. The owners over a wonderful high ceilinged space about 5 years ago that was formerly a Chinese restaurant. Kitchen in the restaurant kind of bistro atmosphere. Great private room upstairs in back. Had fabulous wild salmon on bed of the sweetest creamed corn in memory! Pork with spaetzle is always great. Braised veal cheeks make a wonderful stew. Wonderful desserts. Great wine (and dessert wine!) list.
  • Oakland, California
    • Oliveto
      • 4 Stars – Had my 50th birthday party in the private room at Oliveto a few years back. Wonderful pork loin! Great salads and desserts. Warm family memories!
  • Pacific Grove, California
    • Passionfish, 701 Lighthouse Avenue. (831) 655-3311
      • 4 1/2 Stars (September 2002 and several times since!) – Delightful, just delightful. Fabulous wine list (at minimal markup), great seafood (half the menu) and meats (the other half). Highly recommended! If you’re in the Monterey/Carmel area, you just have to enjoy Passionfish!
  • Palo Alto, California
    • Il Fornaio
      • 1 Star (July 2002) – I used to eat here a lot — it was a big “power breakfast” spot in the heyday of the Internet boom. But, recently, I had dinner there and was very disappointed in the quality of the food. One redeeming value (and why it’s even listed here): a free WiFi connection available in the bar area in the front of the restaurant!
    • Mike’s Cafe Etc., 2680 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, (650) 473-MIKE
      • 4 Stars (March 2003) – We’ve had family and friends dinners at Mike’s for years it seems. Mike’s is one of those great neighborhood restaurants (in Palo Alto’s Midtown area) which just feels good — for either lunch and dinner. My favorite entree is the Penne with Chicken and Broccoli — along with a glass of the Morgan Chardonnay! Desserts are from the Prolific Oven in downtown Palo Alto — the Carrot Cake is my favorite! The San Jose Mercury News reviewed Mike’s in January 2003 with a very favorable review.
    • Peninsula Creamery
      • 3 Star – This was my favorite breakfast spot during the heydeys of the Internet boom in 1999-2000. A great place to meet people in the morning — if you’re in the mood for a full breakfast. Lately, I’ve become more comfortable with Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park — but the Creamery remains an old favorite.
  • Portland, Oregon
    • El Gaucho – 319 Sw Broadway. (503) 227-8794.
      • 4 1/2 Stars (June 2002) – Fabulous steaks along with at your table Ceasar salad creation. Dark and romantic atmosphere. Pricey — but a great night on the town! A great place for some delicious protein if you’re on the Atkins diet! Sister restaurant in Seattle.
    • Papa Haydn
      • 4 Stars (August 2002) – Right on busy NW 23rd Street (people watching), indoor dining, some 2 person street tables. Known for its awesome dessert menu. Good menu. I had the Filet Mignon Bresaola which was very good — although the filet was a thinner slice than you might normally expect for this cut.
    • Wildwood
      • 4 1/2 Stars (May 2002) – Great food, atmosphere. My favorites on the current menu are the Wild Salmon and the Pork Loin. Owner Cory Schreiber also has a cookbook. Would have been 5 Stars — but it’s a bit pricey.
  • Portola Valley, California
  • Redwood City, California
  • San Francisco, California
    • Boulevard – Mission and Steuart Streets
      • 4 Stars (October 2002) – Top rated San Francisco restaurant. Great food, nice atmosphere, but very high prices and ridiculous valet parking ($12.00 for lunch, $10.00 for dinner). In other words, if you can get there on foot and are living on an expense account, enjoy yourself — it’s great. Public transportation (BART/Muni) is available a block away at the Embarcadero station.
    • Pacific Cafe – 7000 Geary Blvd. (34th Avenue), (415) 387-7091 (No reservations)
      • 4 Stars (August 2002) – Good food, great prices on fresh seafood, wonderful service, a local place that’s fun with family and friends. No reservations but they serve wine to those waiting.
    • Palio d’Asti – 640 Sacramento St. (between Montgomery and Kearny Sts.), (415) 395-9800
      • 4 1/2 Stars (August 2002) – Great food, reasonable prices. We took a family party of 11 (including 3 kids) on a Friday evening. The Chef came out and had a great time with the kids, helping them decide on their pizza and pasta choices, etc. I had king salmon which was among the best I’ve had all year — including at Wildwood in Portland! Started with a panzanella salad (not on the menu). Wonderful wine list.
    • Red’s Java House – Bryant at Embarcadero – Pier 30.
      • 3 1/2 Stars (May 2002) – The perfect waterfront hamburger joint. Classic San Francisco place with the cheapest prices in town for burgers, fries and a Bud for lunch. Lots of locals, construction workers, etc. frequent Red’s for lunch and eat out in the (mostly!) sunshine on the Embarcadero. A must do if you’re looking for a little fun for lunch.
  • San Mateo, California
    • Viognier – above Draegers Market, 222 East Fourth Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401, (650) 685-3727
      • 4 1/2 Stars (August 2002) – This is one of our favorite restaurants. The atmosphere is delightful, the food is just grand, and the parking is easy (underground below the market). Prices are definitely on the high side but everything else seems to make up for it.
  • Seattle, Washington
    • Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1700 7th Ave., Seattle, WA 98101, (206) 267-BASS.
      • 4 1/2 Stars (December 2002) – Fresh seafood, great grill atmosphere. The fresh Dungeness Crab cocktail starter was amazing. The Ahi Tuna entree equally outstanding. Amazon has a lunch menu available online. The Seattle Times has a recent review available online.
  • Woodside, California
    • Village Pub
      • 4 1/2 Stars (July 2002) – Great food, atmosphere at the recently remodeled Village Pub. The chef, Mark Sullivan, likes to do combinations of the same meat/poultry — duck three ways, pork three ways, etc. If you like great pot roast, you’ll love the Daube of beef! Would have been 5 Stars — but the prices are very high.

Ideas for Restaurants to Try

Other Resources

Scott’s Favorite French Onion Soup

istock_000001245149xsmall[Update: December 12, 2019 – See below for a new approach to carmelizing the onions more easily!]

This recipe was inspired by Husch Vineyards’ French Onion Soup recipe, modified a bit to suit our tastes better. Husch is a small family winery in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County, just down the road from Navarro, Handley, Roederer, and some of our other favorites! Check here for a list of Anderson Valley wineries. Anderson Valley is one of the most beautiful California valleys and is on the road to Mendocino.


  • 3 to 5 medium yellow onions (3 lbs), sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups chicken stock (substitute beef stock for stronger flavor)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup sherry or dry white wine


  1. Melt the butter and olive oil over a low heat in a large heavy-bottomed kettle. Add the onions and seasonings. Toss to coat the onion slices with butter/olive oil. Cover and cook on low heat until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes.
  2. Remove cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized. This is a slow process and will take about 45 minutes to one hour stirring every 10 minutes or so. Grab a good book and read near your stove!
  3. When nicely caramelized, add the chicken (or beef) stock, bay leaf, and sherry. Simmer for another 15 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves four – just the best with some crunchy sourdough cheese bread for dipping!

Update: Carmelizing Onions

Thanks to Cooks Illustrated for this alternative approach to carmelizing onions for making this soup. This technique is faster and easier than the traditional approach described above. Here are the steps for this technique.


  • 3 lbs yellow onions, sliced thin
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Slice onions thru the root (pole to pole)
  2. Place onions into 12-inch skillet with 3/4 cup of water, 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil. Boil over high heat, cover – until water evaporated and onions start to sizzle – about 10 mins
  3. Uncover, reduce heat to medium-high
  4. Using spatula, gently press onions into sides and bottom of skillet – without stirring – for about 30 seconds. Then stir, and gently press onions back into sides and bottom again. Repeat as needed until well browned and slightly sticky (15-20 mins).
  5. While the onions cook, combine 1/8 tsp of baking soda and 1 Tbsp of water in a bowl. Pour onto onions and stir constantly about 1 minute. Now done!

First posted: November 6, 2005. Updated: December 12, 2019