Saturday, June 25, 2016

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

Hot bacon dressing likely originated in Germany and came to the New World from what are now called the "Pennsylvania Dutch". As you may know, I grew up in Ohio where a large Amish and German community exists and so I was introduced to hot bacon dressing as a young child.

Julian's Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
It was and still is used on many versions of salads in the region. I pair it here with a spinach salad, but it is also frequently found on a salad of dandelion greens or leaf lettuce. I  do not make it super hot when I pour over the leaves, but I know people who do. They call it 'wilting the lettuce' with the hot dressing. I prefer to just have it warm but you can decide you like best. I also double the recipe and then just warm it up for future servings.

You really can make whatever type of salad you desire, using any set of salad ingredients. Here I'm using just some fresh tomatoes, feta cheese and the crumbled bacon pieces. With the hot dressing it is delicious.

3 slices bacon, crisp and chopped

1 egg, well beaten
1 1⁄2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1⁄4 cup vinegar
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

salad greens (lettuce, endive, spinach or dandelion)
chopped onion (optional)

Cook bacon until crisp; remove and chop. Set aside the bacon and reserve the drippings.

Mix together the egg, flour, milk, vinegar, sugar and salt. Reheat the bacon drippings until just hot, but not boiling. While whisking rapdily, pour the mixture into the hot bacon drippings and cook until thickened, 2-3 minutes.

Prepare the salad greens by washing, drying and tearing into bite sized pieces. Add the optional onion, tomatoes and other toppings of your choice. Add the reserved bacon bits. Pour the warm dressing over the salad and serve while still warm.
Julian at the cooktop whisking the dressing.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Julian's Cocktail Chex Mix

With a good cocktail you need at least a little snack, preferably salty and crunchy. I often make a variety of appetizers like nacho chips, guacamole, and spicy hummus but sometimes it's too much effort or we just want something simple and small. For that, I always keep a supply of my cocktail Chex mix on hand.

Julian's Cocktail Chex Mix
The recipe is simple and I've referred many to Google to find the recipe. But some have insisted mine tastes better.  Turns out, the official recipes have all gone healthy and tried to reduce the fat. No wonder they don't taste as good. So below I give you my version, which is about double the sauce of the original and also has more other ingredients besides just the cereal. And don't buy the pre-made Chex mix in the store. It's really not good at all.

Image above taken before sauce applied.
The recipe isn't that specific. Toss in what you like on the snack side. Just make sure to increase the amount of sauce if you increase the amount of snacks. You'll also see I give you the option of making the mix spicy hot. While I personally don't prefer it that way, it does slow down the consumption.

The recipe below fills these two
roasting pans with no room to spare.


1 12 ounce box Corn Chex
1 12 ounce box Rice Chex
1 14 ounce box Wheat Chex
1 pound pretzels, as small as you can find
Cooling on paper towels.
2-3 pounds peanuts, shelled, salted and roasted, extra large
2-3 pounds other snack ingredients like
    wasabi peas, BBQ corn nuggets, sesame sticks, etc

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder or granules
1 tablespoon onion powder
red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 250F degrees. Combine all of the snacks in a large roaster (or two) and gently mix.

In sauce pan or large microwavable bowl melt together butter and the remaining sauce ingredients. Pour over the snack mix and stir gently to combine.

Place in the pre-heated oven uncovered for 1 hours. Stir every 15 minutes. Remove and pour onto a work surface lined with paper towels to cool. When completely room temperature transfer to an air tight storage container(s) and use for your next cocktail party. Holds for several months.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Baked Crab-Stuffed Flounder

This flaky flat white fish is tender and delicious. But because this is a very flat fish, you can't get a thick filet and it would typically take 2-3 to make a main course for most men. So today, I'm making a stuffed version, although I use that term loosely.

Julian's Crab-Stuffed Flounder
Flounder typically comes in smaller thin pieces so to actually stuff them would be pretty much impossible. In the recipe below I use the fish as the bottom and sides, generally wrapping them around the crab stuffing. The recipe I provide you with below is the same as my crab cake recipe. Use it as your loose guide for this stuffing.

1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped and optional
2-3 tablespoons parsley -- chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon hot sauce
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seafood seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons dry mustard

3/4 cup  bread crumbs, Italian preferred
1 pound  lump crab -- canned and drained
1 tablespoon oil or spray food release
1/3 cup white wine
8 flounder fillets
2 tablespoons butter, melted
salt, freshly ground black pepper, paprika

Chop the vegetables and garlic as noted above. Mix together the remaining ingredients except for the bread crumbs and crab. Combine the chopped vegetables and the other ingredients and stir well.  Stir in the bread crumbs and toss the crab in the mixture. Do not over-mix the crab as you do not want to break it up into very fine shredded pieces. A light tossing will ensure lumps of crab remain. Set the stuffing aside. Heat the oven to 350F degrees.

Lightly oil or spray with food release, a large baking dish. Place 4 of the flounder fillets on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top each piece with the stuffing mixture. Cut the remaining four flounder fillets in half lengthwise following the line of the spine. Wrap each stuffed filet along both sides so that the stuffing is enclosed on the sides but open on the top as shown in the photos. Pour melted butter over the prepared fish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot through. Carefully lift the stuffed fillets out onto serving plates.

Crab stuffing on top of flounder fillets. Awaiting side wrapping.

Fillets cut length-wise to wrap sides of stuffing.
Notes:  If you have extra stuffing, it can be used for crab cakes. It holds in the refrigerator for several days.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Grilled Steak Fajitas

With grilling in high season here in Chicago, today I'm making steak fajitas. Really what is better on the grill than a nice piece of seasoned skirt steak that's been grilled up with fresh peppers and sweet onions, then wrapped in a tortilla wrapper with some delicious sauce?

Julian's Grilled Steak Fajitas
My original recipe came from Paul Deen, but over time I've modified it a bit and don't actually measure anything when making it now. You don't really need to either, just loosely follow the directions below and your dinner will be just delicious.  If you have a larger skirt steak or several pieces, double or triple the marinade as needed.

Kept warm at the table in casserole dishes.
I like to use two heavy covered casserole dishes to serve and keep warm the filling and the tortillas. I place them both directly on the grill grates over burners that are not on. I keep the grill closed for most of the cooking so it's like having a warming area. I then place trivets on the table and using gloves, transfer the warm covered crocks to the table so everyone can serve themselves in a leisurely fashion and the food stays warm.

Marinade Ingredients
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
About 1 pound of flank steak.
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound skirt steak

Toppings Ingredients
1 large Vidalia (sweet) onion
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Favorite Mexican seasonings

Flour tortillas

Optional Toppings
Sour cream, for topping
Salsa, for topping
Guacamole, for topping
Romesco sauce, for topping
Cheddar cheese, shredded, for topping

Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Slice the skirt steak into small slices about 1/2 inch thick. Place the sliced steak into a zippered storage back. Add the marinade and stir to combine in the bag until all pieces are well coated. Close and store in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

Heat the grill and oil a grill basket lightly (or spray with food release). Place on the grill to heat as well. Slice the onion and peppers into thick slices. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and your favorite Mexican seasonings. Remove the meat from the marinade. Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven or on the unused side of the grill in a heavy casserole (not over open fire).

Place the sliced vegetables in the hot grill basket. Cook for 5 minutes or more until tender and lightly browned. Remove to a plate. Cook the steak in the grill basket for about 3-5 minutes per side. Do not overcook. Turn the steak to ensure even browning. Return the cooked vegetables to the grill basket with the steak to warm and combine.

Serve immediately with the warm tortillas and other toppings of your choice.

Ready to wrap!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Firecracker Grilled Shrimp or Shrimp Romesco

This recipe is a based on a classic Romesco sauce, so today I'm giving you both versions which are identical except for the selection of the peppers; hot versus sweet.

Julian's Firecracker Grilled Shrimp
A classic Romesco sauce is a nut and red pepper-based sauce that originated from Catalonia, in Northeastern Spain. It is typically made from almonds, garlic, olive oil, and bitxo peppers (similar to chiles) or nyora peppers (similar to red bell peppers). Stale bread is used as a thickener.

*Pepper Selection:  When I want Firecracker grilled shrimp, I choose canned chilpotle peppers in a spicy adobo sauce or other canned hot red peppers. When I want a more sweet version, I call it Romesco and use canned roasted red peppers, roasted pimentos or piquillo peppers. The other ingredients and techniques are the same.

This makes a great main course but can also be an appetizer or finger food for a party. I've found them to be universally popular. In the photos shown here I just put them in my grill basket in a single layer. Shrimp cook quickly and the basket provides a barrier to the hot grill grates. Ideally you want to place them on a skewer as shown in my prior post and cook them directly on the hot grates, as this will give them a little char marking, which I think is more desirable. If you are in a hurry as I was, then a single layer in a grill basket works okay too.

I make a batch of this sauce and use it on other foods, such as chicken breasts. It can be used as a marinade and a dip. It's great to have on hand in the summer. A batch will hold in your refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

8-12 ounce can peppers*
2 plum tomatoes, cut up
2 slices (2 ounces) toasted bread, torn
1/2 slivered almonds
1-2 tablespoons paprika
  (hot or sweet as you prefer)
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup olive oil
raw shrimp (will coat up to 4 pounds)
  (peeled and cleaned, tails on)


Sauce: Prepare in Advance.  In a food processor combine the canned peppers and their sauce/juice, tomatoes, toasted bread pieces, almonds, paprika, crushed garlic, wine vinegar and salt. Pulse until thick puree forms. With the food processor on, drizzle in the olive oil until a smooth emulsified sauce is produced. Let sit for one hour before use, or refrigerate for later use.

Shrimp:  Toss your cleaned shrimp in enough sauce to fully coat. Place in a zip locked bag or airtight container and refrigerate for 1-3 hours. Heat your grill on high heat. Shake off excess sauce. Place the shrimp on double skewers or in a single layer in an oiled grill basket. Cook uncovered for 1-2 minutes per side until the shrimp are firm and no longer opaque.  Serve warm.

Served here on a bed of Spanish rice.