Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Citrus Grilled Salmon with Orange Vinaigrette

I received some comments lately stating that I only post recipes with meat on this blog. I decided to throw some salmon on the grill for those non-meat carnivores, like my sister-in-law who came to visit us last weekend. She eats fish but doesn't like meat. My wife and her sister asked me to grill some salmon. I decided on making a citrus grilled salmon. It can be made using salmon steaks or fillets.
Salmon fillet
This recipe was actually inspired by my neighbor who, many years ago, recommended a restaurant on Navy Pier in Chicago. He also recommended I order a grilled salmon fillet with baby spinach and fresh oranges. This was not on the menu but he told me they would make it to my specifications.
Perhaps you prefer steaks
2-4-6 oz. salmon fillets or steaks, room temp
Sea salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper
to taste
1-10 oz. bag fresh baby spinach
1 small shallot, minced
1 small tomato, diced
2-4 whole eggs, hard boiled, peeled, sliced or quartered
Olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for grilling  
Insert lemon slices cut in half into salmon
About an hour before grilling your salmon, you're going to make some orange vinaigrette. The sweetness of the orange and light acidity balances the rich full flavor of the salmon. Feel free to experiment using blood oranges when in season.
Fresh orange juice
1/3 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
1/4 tsp lemon zest, or more
1/4 tsp orange zest, or more
Orange and lemon zest
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/3 cup
extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground dry mustard
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp agave syrup or honey, optional
In a blender or cruet add the juice from fresh squeezed orange and a 1/4 teaspoon each of fresh orange and lemon zest. Add the vinegar and dry mustard and blend or shake well. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and blend or
shake until incorporated and the mixture emulsifies. Taste it. If there is too much bite, add more olive oil, if not enough bite, add more vinegar. You might also add a half teaspoon of agave syrup or honey to balance the citrus flavor.
Wash and dry some baby spinach
Dice some shallots
and some diced tomatoes
Wash the spinach and spin dry in a salad spinner, or blot dry with paper towels.
In a skillet with a splash of olive oil, saute the diced shallots until tender but not brown. Put the baby spinach into the pan and toss with the shallots. Saute the spinach and keep tossing until wilted. Lower the heat and mix in the diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the pan from the heat. 
Place the salmon skin side down on a piece of lightly oiled aluminum foil. Cut slits in the top of the salmon to accommodate lemon slices that have been cut in half. Slip the lemon halves into the slits. This will infuse the citrus flavor into the salmon while grilling.
Lemon slices added to salmon
Brush the top of the salmon with more oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Set up the grill for two zone cooking, one hot and one off. The heat from the hot side will carry over to the cold side. When the grill is hot (about
400°F), place the salmon in foil on the hot side. Do not cover yet. We want to cook the skin side until it sticks to the foil and the salmon begins to cook from the bottom up.
Don't cover yet let the bottom cook first over a hot grill
When the salmon turns from raw to cooked half way up the thickness of the salmon, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a little butter and close the grill cover. This is when you finish cooking the salmon. I prefer mine medium but some like it more well done. It's up to you and the quality of your salmon. Check the salmon until it's done.

To serve, place a bed of spinach, shallots and tomato mixture on the plate. Using a fish spatula, carefully slide it between the skin and the salmon. Remove the salmon, leaving the skin on the foil. Place the fillet on the spinach. Discard the skin and the foil. Drizzle the top of the salmon with the orange vinaigrette. Place the egg slices on top of the spinach against the fillet. Enjoy!
© TMelle 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Retro Mock Chicken Legs

Mise en place
This is a meal we had often growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. Chicken was expensive, so we had to settle for "mock chicken." This is what I call real comfort food and was something that we always looked forward to.
The recipe is pretty straight forward and she made them often from scratch in the beginning. Later on she would have them made up for her by our local butcher. She just had to bring them home and fry them up in a pan, finish them in the oven and serve them with mashed potatoes and pan gravy.
Ingredients (meat)
3/4 lbs. Veal, ground

3/4 lbs. Pork, ground
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup bread crumbs, fine
1 whole egg, beaten, for breading
8 wooden skewers
6 Tbsp. Butter or margarine, clarified for frying
Use ice cream scoop to portion legs
Place the meat into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients  except the eggs, butter, and bread crumbs. Mix meat until the ingredients are well blended, but not over mixed. Using an ice cream scoop divide the meat into nine equal portions. Shape each portion evenly around each stick, or insert them later. Try to form raw meat into the shape that resembles a chicken leg.
Wrap each leg in waxed paper and refrigerate for about one hour. Preheat oven to 350°F. Dip each leg in the beaten egg and then roll in bread crumbs until evenly coated. Press crumbs into the meat with your hands so that it sticks well.
Soak sticks in water
Add some of the clarified butter or margarine to a medium hot skillet. Add the formed legs and fry on medium heat, turning frequently, until brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
Add more butter as needed until all of the drumsticks are fried. Remove drumsticks to an oven proof platter and place into the oven for 20-30 minutes.
I used two sticks per mock chicken leg
Make the gravy using the pan drippings while the drumsticks are baking in the oven.
Pour slurry into pan drippings
Ingredients (gravy)
1/2 cup beef stock
3 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. water
to taste salt & pepper
Directions (gravy)
To the pan dripping add beef stock. In a separate container mix together water and flour to make a liquid thickener (slurry). Mix this into the pan a little at a time and stir until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until gravy thickens to the desired consistency. Discard the unused slurry. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper as necessary to your taste. Spoon gravy over the drumsticks when serving. 
Can you smell that?

Serves: 8-9

© TMelle 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rockin Chinese Egg Rolls

Almond Pressed Duck and Egg Roll
In my immediate family I am outnumbered when it comes to Chinese food. I love it and they hate it. Are we dysfunctional? You might ask. When it comes to food, most of the time the answer is is yes. My family just loves salads. I think that they were all gerbils in a past life. Don't get me wrong I enjoy a good salad once and awhile, but not every night. If we are having hot dogs they will want a salad to go with it. Cole slaw, baked beans, and fries okay. Not a salad. It's a lot like Dirty Harry's thoughts about ketchup on a hot dog. Never!
Egg Roll Hot Mustard and Sweet & Sour Sauce
When I was a much younger man I worked down the street from a Chinese restaurant. They had a fantastic lunch menu featuring an assortment of lunch entrees. The meal consisted of and egg roll, won ton soup, fried rice, and hot tea. At least once a week we would go there for lunch. The owner, was also the waiter, cashier, and occasionally the cook. When I or any of my co-workers walked in together he knew exactly what we would order. He would stop to formerly ask if we wanted the same thing and then proceed to serve us a bowl of soup, an egg roll appetizer, followed by our entree, and of course hot green tea. If you didn't finish the tea or drink it, he would use it to clean the table. It really works on a Formica table.
Sesame Chicken, Shrimp Egg Foo Young and Chicken Chow Mein
All of the food was good, but there was something about the egg roll, served with homemade sweet and sour sauce, and hot mustard. Why some restaurants use the single serve packets of hot sauce and sweet and sour sauce is beyond my comprehension. It wasn't just that I liked it, I'm talking an addiction.
Every now and then he would take me into the kitchen and show me how he cooked something, or give me a cooking tip. I had one question about the egg rolls and that taste. "What is that?" I asked. With a smile he replied "peanut butter." "What about the sweet & sour sauce? I continued. Again he smiled and said "apricot sauce." He told me that he gets it in China town in Chicago. He never actually gave me recipes, but did let me watch.
(Rockin Chinese Egg Roll)
1 bunch Napa celery cabbage, washed, dried, shredded
to taste bean sprouts, fresh, blanched
1 pound ground pork, browned
1/2 cup chicken, shrimp or pork, cooked, diced
2-3 stalks green onion, sliced fine
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 whole egg, beaten
2 teaspoon peanut butter, or more
1 package egg roll wrappers 
as needed peanut oil, for frying
NOTE: This is not for people with peanut or shellfish allergies.  
This is a "to your own taste kind of recipe." Take one bunch of the celery cabbage and wash thoroughly.Drain and pat dry with a paper towel, or if you have a salad spinner use that. Finely shred the cabbage and place in a bowl. Finely slice the green onions and set to the side. Blanch some fresh bean sprouts (not many) in boiling water and then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking process., Drain and set to the side. Beat 1 egg together with a couple of drops of water. Set this to the side.
Shredded Napa (Chinese) Cabbage
Brown the ground pork and drain. Chop small chunks of cooked chicken, pork or shrimp, or any combination of these and mix with the ground pork. Slowly mix in the sesame oil and the peanut butter, which acts as a binder, and as the secret ingredient for these egg rolls. Add the cabbage, onions and bean sprouts to the mix. This is an equal mix of most ingredients.
Bean Sprouts Drained
Set about 2 tablespoons of the filling on one side of the egg roll wrapper. Roll into a cylinder, tucking in the sides as you roll. Seal the egg rolls using the beaten egg mixture. In a deep fryer or deep sided pot bring peanut oil to 350ºF and slowly lower egg rolls into hot oil. Be careful that it does not splash. Cook both sides until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve with hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce.You're on your own for the sauces.

© TMelle 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


I guess the age-old adage “you can't teach an old dog new tricks” is absolutely false. Recently, while checking my e-mail I got diverted by some click bait article about hot dogs. Not just any article mind you, it was about a spiral dog. I clicked on the story and of course was taken to the story and a video to observe how to make a spiral dog. What will they think of next? If you would like to see that video you can follow the following spiral sliced hot dog link which will take you to the story.
Spiral cut hot dog
I was hooked. What could I do? That story opened a whole new hot dog world to me. You have to understand that hot dogs, as gross as some people find them, have been a part of my life since I was a child. I ate a lot of traditional Chicago style hot dogs in my time.
A Chicago Style Hot Dog
Could it be true? Has somebody made a better mousetrap? I decided to test this process out on my own. You only need a few things to make a spiral hot dog. You need a hot dog, a wooden skewer, a knife, and a grill. The concept is simple. Place a wooden skewer through the middle of a hot dog from one end to the other. That's not as easy as it sounds. If you go out a side of the dog just pull back and try again.
You probably want fries with that!
Once the skewer is in the hot dog lay a sharp knife at one end on an angle and roll away from you while pressing with the knife, keeping the same angle while cutting into the hot dog. You can only cut up to the wooden skewer which will stop you from cutting completely through. As you turn the hot dog away from you the knife follows the angle from one end to the other. When you're finished cutting the angle, remove the skewer from the hot dog and you will have a spiral sliced hot dog that stretches like a slinky from one end to the other. Just throw them on the griddle or grill and turn them so that they don't burn. They will expand in size as they cook.
You're going to need some steamed buns
You will either grill your buns or steam them. The choice is really up to you. I just love steamed hot dog buns. It's the way they serve them in Chicago. Tradition!
As you grill them they start to open up.
I sent a link for the spiral dogs to a friend. His immediate reaction or thought was another Chicago favorite, the Francheezie. "Why not?" I thought. So my wife whipped up some crispy bacon and heated a jar of Tostitos Salsa Con Queso.
In case you forgot what a traditional fast food Francheezie looks like.
To build a spiral Francheezie some changes needed to be made. No longer would I have to stuff my hot dog with cheese and then wrap it in bacon before heading off for the broiler, or deep fryer. No way! I was making a deconstructed Francheezie. I started with a steamed bun, added a strip of crispy bacon and then added one fully cooked and caramelized spiral sliced hot dog. I was 2/3 of the way there.
What's missing from this picture? I know Cheeeeze!
It was at this moment that my wife came forth with hot melted cheese. You can use any cheese really, even Cheese Whiz. 
Salsa Con Queso
How much cheese you ask. Say when. When pouring on the cheese, it filled in the caramelized spiral cuts of the hot dog like water seeking its own level. By Joe I think we've got it. Who would have thought that with just one click on the Internet a whole new world of hot dogs opened up to me.
You want a bite? Look at that!
Next time I will try adding some jalapenos.
How about chili cheese dogs? You can top these Francheezie's any way you like, except No Ketchup!How do you like your hot dogs. Leave a comment below.
© TMelle 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Beer Can Chicken, or Chicken on the Throne

No matter what you call it, beer can chicken is amazing. My brother called me one day and asked if I’ve ever had “Beer can up the butt chicken?” You can make this without a beer and chicken holder, however it would be much safer to have one. They are about $3.00 each, unless you get an expensive one. Get two and cook two chickens at the same time.
Chicken rub, BBQ sauce, beer can holders and beer
GRILL: Set up your grill for the indirect cooking method with an aluminum drip pan under the chickens to catch the drippings.

2 whole chickens, roasters
2 small onions, golf ball size, peeled
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. chicken rub, your choice
2-12 oz. cans beer, pop-top, plus 1 extra hole
Serves: 4 (1/2 chicken each person) 
NOTE: You’re going to have to dispose of 1/2 of the beer in each can so that they are half full. It's a dirty job but somebody has to drink it. You can also use a soda can. Root beer or Dr. Pepper works. Pop the top and add a second hole with a good old fashioned beer can opener. You remember those? 
Prep them chickens

Set up grill for indirect cooking

DIRECTIONS Soak some apple of hickory wood chips in water for about 1 hour before grilling the chickens.
Remove the giblet packets from the chickens. Rinse out the chickens and pat dry with a paper towel on the outside. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the chicken rub into the cavity of each chicken.
Mount that chicken
Drink or throw out 1/ of the beer or soda in the can. Mount each chicken on the 1/2 empty beer or pop can in the holders. Put the peeled onion into the neck cavity of each chicken. Massage the chickens on all sides with the remaining rub. The onion will cry all over the chicken while roasting.
Hey you'd cry too if somebody put a beer can up your butt.
Add the onions to the neck cavity and press in
Once the grill is hot add the soaked wet wood chips to a smoker box, or aluminum foil packet punctured with vent holes and place it over the hot side of the grill. Place the beer can chicken stands over the center of the grill so that the coals will be on either side, but not directly under it. Put the grill top over the chickens with the vent hole in the center, allowing the smoke to be drawn over the chickens.
OMG! Can you smell that?
Check the charcoal and wood chips after 45 minutes and recover the grill. This should take a total of 1-1/2 to 2 hours to cook. The internal temperature of the chicken should read 180°F at the center of the thigh. Make sure the temperature probe is not on the bone or the beer can.
The BBQ sauce takes this chicken over the top
Once the proper internal temperature is achieved, remove the chickens from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. If using BBQ sauce it should be added in the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
CAUTION: Be extremely careful when removing the chickens from the stands. The beer inside is extremely hot and the can is full again. It will burn! Use rubber gloves or pot holders to remove the stands. 
So there you have it, beer can up the butt chicken, or Chicken on the throne. If you have ever made this before please leave a comment on rubs that you use, or barbecue sauces you slather on yours. What do you do with the beer and chicken juices left in the can?
Finally if you have any recipes for retro  comfort foods, or ideas for future posts pass them along.

© TMelle 2014