Grilled Teriyaki Flank Steak



This weeknight grilling recipe is Teriyaki Flank Steak, a variation on my Flank Steak with Chimichurri recipe that I posted a few months ago. While I prefer ribeye steaks, I don't think of ribeyes as a weeknight meal. They're more of a special occasion meal for me, due to the price, and how rich they are.
*I already have to watch my weight; I can't imagine what it would be like if I ate ribeyes all the time.

Flank steak is my weeknight beef of choice. It grills quickly, and it has long fibers of muscle that allow it to absorb a marinade well (or a glaze, like we use here).  It's a healthy cut of protien, because it's very lean. And it's cheap!*
*Or, cheaper than ribeye. If you're really tight on grocery money, stick with pork and chicken, which are much cheaper.

Recipe: Grilled Teriyaki Flank Steak

Grilled Thin Pork Chops, Quick Brinerated


Thin pork chops are an idea I learned from from John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger in Gourmet magazine. They suggest you think thin, crispy and flavorful, instead of the usual thick and juicy. For a quick weeknight meal on the grill, thin is good - it cooks quickly, and gets dinner on the table that much faster.

Even though you're looking for thin and crispy, this is modern pork.*  You have to be careful to not overcook it, or you'll dry it out.  The brinerade gives you a little cushion, but the real trick is to only cook them on one side.  They are thin enough to cook through, and they'll be nicely browned on that one side that's always facing the grill.
*As I've said before, it's been renamed "modern pork", and it's a euphemism for "there's no fat in there."

Recipe: Grilled Thin Pork Chops, Quick Brinerated

Weeknight Grilling on DadCooksDinner

*Wherein we discuss Dad Cooking Dinner when the chips are down.

I've mentioned this scenario before: It's been a long day at work, the kids are ricocheting off the walls (and each other), and the wife has left for evening classes.  You're tired, and not motivated to cook.  The siren song of pizza delivery is singing in the back of your head.  What do you do?

This week, I'm getting quick and dirty.  You need a protein, a veg, and a starch, and you need it now, or you're going to lose your nerve and go to the drive-through.  Again.

What do I do?  I can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes.  45 minutes, tops.  It may not be gourmet, but it's good, it's quick, and it's homemade.  All the other recipes and techniques I've shown you on this blog?  They're my passion, obviously; I love food and cooking.  But sometimes I'm just not in the mood.  Or, we're in a hurry to get to a kid's soccer game.  Or...well, you know how life gets in the way.

For me, throwing something on the grill always helps me get my cooking groove back, so I'm going to start with Weeknight Grilling.  Even when I'm not inspired, I enjoy live fire cooking.  That helps me get some positive momentum, and dinner on the table.

Basic Technique: Weeknight Grilling

1. Cook something thin: If you need it to cook quickly, it has to be thin, and it has to be tender.  Steven Raichlen calls this his "Rule of Palm".  If it's as thin as your palm, or thinner, it will cook quickly over direct heat.  It has to be a tender cut of meat as well, because quick cooking won't help tenderize it.  Think of breast or loin meat, cut one inch thick or less.

2. Give it a quick brinerade:  While the grill's heating, soak the protein in a marinade that has a lot of soy sauce in it.  This seasons the meat, and will help it brown quickly.  At its simplest, I use equal parts soy sauce, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.*
*I hate to admit it, but I picked this up from Rachel Ray.  The horror!  I learned it in her first 30-Minute Meals book, the one with the ugly green cover, back before she became the cultural juggernaut that she is now.  It wasn't until later that Cook's Illustrated gave it the catchy "brinerate" name and explained to me why it works so well.

3. Use a gas grill set to direct medium heat: I know I come across as a charcoal snob, but if you're juggling multiple dishes because you're in a hurry, the ease and reliability of a gas grill can't be beat.  Also, if I'm rushed for time, I prefer cooking over medium heat.  The slightly lower heat means you don't have to watch the food as carefully.  You can usually say "5 minutes a side" and be done with it.

4. Grill the vegetable side at the same time: While you're cooking the main course, throw a vegetable on the grill right next to the protein.  (Like some corn, asparagus, or zucchini).
4a. Or, make a salad: You already know how to whip up a quick vinaigrette, right?  Just pour it over a bag of spring mix greens, and toss.

5. Make a quick starch: White rice, couscous, or just serve some bread on the side.

6. Serve: Serve it family style - put it all on serving platters, and set it on the table.  Dig in!

So, what are we going to see this week?

Tuesday: Grilled Thin Pork Chops, Quick Brinerated
Wednesday: Grilled Teriyaki Flank Steak
Thursday: Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, Quick Brinerated

Questions?  Comments?  Other ideas?  Leave them in the comments, below.

Related Posts:
I've already done a couple of recipes that qualify as quick weeknight grilling, so to whet your appetite, check these out:
Grilled Boneless Pork Loin Chops, Brined and Honey Glazed recipe
Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri recipe

Inspired by:
Reading my "Hello World" post after one year of blogging, and realizing that all I was posting was elaborate, Sunday dinner types of meals...

TheKitchn.com and their September theme of Quick Weeknight Meals

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Rotisserie Beef Ribs


I'm a fan of beef ribs cut off of a rib roast; I eat them as my cook's treat when I make a rib roast.  I'm also a big fan of pork ribs, cooked low and slow.  So, whenever I made beef ribs on their own, without the roast, I would cook them low and slow.  The beef ribs were good, but not great; I would always prefer pork ribs.  I couldn't figure out why the same low and slow technique you use with pork ribs didn't work as well with beef ribs.

Finally, it dawned on me - I liked the ribs cut from the roast better because they were roasted.  I wasn't cooking them at a high enough temperature to get a nice, crispy crust on them, and I was drying them out with the long cooking time.  Why not cook them the same way I cooked my rotisserie baby back ribs, which always turned out with a wonderful, crisp crust? And, voila!  My new favorite rib recipe was born.

These ribs are huge. My kids were calling them dinosaur ribs, because each one is about twice the length of a pork rib.
*Actually, they picked the "dinosaur ribs" up from me. They've never seen The Flintstones. I was flabbergasted when I realized this - they're kids, and they have no idea who Fred and Barney are. I'm getting old...



When I eat pork ribs, I need about half a slab to be full.* For beef ribs, I only need about three of them, so adjust your meat purchase accordingly.
*Unfortunately for my waistline, I rarely stop at a half a slab.

Recipe: Rotisserie Beef Ribs

Jane Snow's Cookbook is finally coming out!



I'm so excited - Jane Snow's cookbook is finally coming out!

Jane Snow was the food editor in my local paper, the Akron Beacon Journal.  My interest in home cooking took off after we moved to Akron, a little over ten years ago, and I immediately found out what a treasure we had in our local paper.  I always looked forward to Jane's weekly articles, food notes, and recipes.  She retired a few years back, to work on a cookbook, or so I heard.*
*I've been waiting.  Patiently...  Jane's recipe for Chicken Mole is still the best one I've ever made, and I've tried them from a number of cookbooks, including a couple different variations from Rick Bayless.

I've been a loyal subscriber to her weekly newsletter, JaneSnowToday.com, in part because I wanted to get the news about the cookbook.  Oh, and she happened to mention a steak cook off in the newsletter a few months ago, which inspired me to enter.  Did I mention that I won?

I was doing a search on the web last night, to find the link to JaneSnowToday.com, and I saw it in Google: the cookbook is coming!  Jane Snow Cooks is being released at the end of September!  I immediately placed my pre-order.

I figured I would write it up on my blog, to help get the word out...and then I opened the Akron Beacon Journal this morning and saw that I had been scooped by the new food editor, Lisa Abraham.  Oh, well. There was more good news in Lisa's article; Jane is working on another cookbook after this one.  I just hope the wait isn't as long this time!

Lisa says that the official release will be at the Ohio Mart Arts & Crafts Festival at Stan Hywet Hall on October 3rd.  Jane will be there for a book signing from 1PM to 3PM.  I'll see you there!

[Update 10/1/09] Can't make it to Ohio Mart?  Here's a link to Jane's book signings:
Jane Snow Book Signings

h/t Lisa Abraham, Book Delivers Flavors of Akron [ohio.com]

Jane Snow: Jane Snow Cooks
Publisher's official site, including an excerpt, at the University of Akron Press



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Zucchini Pickles, Zuni style


As I was finishing up pickle week, I stumbled across this recipe for zucchini pickles from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.  I'm embarrassed that I didn't find it earlier.  Zuni is one of my favorite restaurants in the world, and I've talked before about how influential the Zuni Cafe Cookbook has been on my cooking.  I've also talked about how overrun by zucchini we are this time of year.  But a recipe in the cookbook that I've looked through hundreds of times?  Somehow, it managed to elude me.

In the spirit of better late than never, here it is.  I like these pickles as much, if not more than, the cucumber pickles I made.  Zucchini is always easier to find than good cucumber pickles, so I will be using this recipe again.
*And I love saying "Zuni Zucchini".  It rolls off the tongue.  Zunicchini.  Yes, my seven year old self is never far from the surface...



Sliced and ready to go
Recipe: Zucchini Pickles, Zuni style

Hi, I'm Mike, and I'm a Recipe Oversharer

Lisa Abraham, Akron Beacon Journal food writer, wrote a recent article on sharing recipes.  In it, she says that her job is getting people to share their recipes with her.  But she also has a couple of family recipes that she won't share.*
*Her mother gave them to her, with threat of excommunication from the family if she ever gave them away.

I enjoyed the article, but I realized that there is no recipe that I won't share.  I'm a recipe oversharer.  If you show a hint of interest my cooking, I won't let you escape until I've explained how to make it.  In excruciating detail.

That's why I started this blog - I enjoy explaining how to do things, and I love cooking.  I'll admit, we don't have any secret family recipes to keep, but if we did, I'd be sharing them anyhow.*
*The closest we have is my Mom's hollandaise sauce.  She makes eggs benedict every Easter, and I just love her sauce.  She hasn't told me the recipe, but I don't think there really is a recipe.  She just says "show up early next year and watch me make it."

I have three reasons for being a recipe over-sharer.  The first, as I said in my rant about "The death of home cooking", is that I'm trying to get people to cook at home.  If it might get you to cook it at home, I'll gladly tell you the recipe.  To paraphrase Michael Ruhlman, I'm part of a growing group of bloggers who have learned how to cook, and we are forming our own community on the web to promote home cooking.  I'm writing this, not because I want you to think I'm a good cook, but because I want you to enjoy what I've learned, and try it yourself.*
*When I was in the Steak Cook-Off at the Taste of Akron, I was passing out copies of my recipe to everyone who walked by, including all my competitors.  When I went in front of the judges, I explained it to the point that one of them said "Wow - I think I can do that at home myself!"  That was exactly what I was looking for...

The second reason is: I don't believe in recipes.  I believe in basic techniques, ratios, and flavor profiles.  Those are the base of cooking, not some secret ingredient.  Sure, I might not be able to duplicate your potato salad (to pick on Lisa), but I can get 98% of the way there with what I already know.  One of the things I love about cooking is that Close Enough is Good Enough.  You'll often see me attribute a recipe that I put on this blog as "Adapted from..." a source.  What that usually means is I used their recipe for most of the basic technique and ratios, then started winging it once I got to the ingredients.  Even when I'm making one of my OWN recipes, it's never exactly the same as last time.
*Again, when I was in the Steak Cook-Off, this almost got me in trouble.  Tom Lorditch, executive chef of West Point Market, said that they would be checking to make sure that we actually cooked the recipe the way we submitted it for the contest.  I asked: "But what if you never make a recipe the same way twice?"  He didn't look amused, and said: "My chefs always make my recipes the way I want them to."  Yet another reason I'm a home cook, and not a chef.

The third reason is a take off of the second: I believe that recipes get in the way of cooking.  I'm a firm believer in The Art of Simple Cooking, as preached by the San Francisco school of American Cooking.*
*Alice Waters, Judy Rodgers, and all the other west coast "get good, local ingredients and don't screw them up" proponents.  Of course, that's easier to do in California than it is in Northeastern Ohio in the middle of the winter, but that's a story for another day.

If you really are a Dad who Cooks Dinner, and its Thursday night, you've had a long day at work, the kids are picking at each other again, and your wife is busy studying for her Physics test*, and you just aren't feeling it...you can't spend your time reading a recipe.  You need to have the basic techniques and ratios down, so you can just look at what's in the fridge and start cooking.  Leftover chicken, onions, peppers, and some canned beans?  Chili powder and garlic in the pantry?  We're having Chili tonight!  The beauty of simple cooking is its adaptability.  Once you get used to the basics, you can vary things based on a different flavor signature.  See the above list of ingredients?  It's also Italian Bean Soup if you use some rosemary and thyme instead of chili powder, and have some chicken stock in the freezer.  Or, Stir Fry - make a pot of rice and stir fry everything else with some soy and hoisin sauce.
*Not that that happened to me today...
**And I know this is more Bittman than Waters at this point.  If you're really going to cook at home all the time, instead of eating out when you're tired, then being able to Get It Done trumps everything else. 

And, OK, the final reason is that I have a strong streak of "Know-it-all" in my personality, and I love telling people how things work.  You couldn't tell from reading this blog?

What do you think?  Questions?  Comments?  Better ideas?  Leave them in the comments, below.

Inspired by:
Lisa Abraham: Don't take secret recipe to the grave [ohio.com]

Alice Waters: The Art of Simple Food




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Grilled Corn


Grilled Corn is my favorite grilled side dish - it's quick and easy, and grilling brings out the sweet taste of the corn. The only reason I haven't posted it before this is…I thought I already HAD posted it.
*Oops.

It's a perfect recipe for September, when you can still get wonderfully sweet corn straight from the farm, but you're getting a little tired of plain boiled corn.

And…you didn't hear it from me, Mr. Buy Local, but it's also great for store-bought corn the rest of the year. Grilling the corn perks up the bland flavor of out of season corn to where it's actually worth eating!

Recipe: Grilled Corn

Poll: Commenting or Blog Flogging?

Or, how do you promote a blog without looking like an infomercial pitchman?
[h/t Daniel at Casual Kitchen for suggesting this topic]

I have a question for you, readers:
What is an acceptable level of promoting your blog in the comments of another blog?  Where's the line between linking back to your blog in the comments, and Blog Flogging?
Please answer in the comments section, at the bottom of the post.

Now for some context around why I'm asking this question.

Recently, I've started trying to get my blog read by a wider group of people.  I've been submitting recipes to other sites that request them for links pages, and I've become an active commenter in blogs that I follow regularly.

Now, "leave comments on other sites with links back to your site" is common advice for increasing your blog's readership.  It's such common advice that it often gets abused.  I don't like it when I see a comment along the lines of:

I agree!
http://someblogorother.blogspot.com

My prime directive when commenting is: say something that adds to the conversation.  If you can't, then don't comment.  When I write a comment, I add a signature with a link back to my blog.  My though process is: I am pushing my blog, but it's by adding  to the conversation on this blog.  If someone finds my comment interesting, maybe they'll click back to my blog to check it out.


Also, on occasion, I will link to a post on my blog in the comment.  I only do this when the subject is something I've recently written about on my blog, particularly if my post goes into the topic at a depth that doesn't fit in a comment.

This has worked reasonably well in increasing my blog readership - it's gone from friends, family and Google Searches including the words "Rotisserie" to, well, a small group of regular readers.  Nothing dramatic, but I can see the gains in my comments section and my Google Analytics numbers.  Also, and more important, I've enjoyed being part of the conversation on the other blogs.  Since I only comment on posts that I can add to, it's a post that I care about - I find myself following up on them to see what other people have to say.*
*It's all about the wider conversation.  Blogging can be a pretty solitary effort; when you start out, it feels like you're shouting at the ocean.  But there's a big group of us out there, and joining in that conversation is great.  Knowing that there are other like-minded people out there can be uplifting, even if you've never met them face to face.

Then, earlier this week, I left a comment on the Bitten Blog at the New York Times.  That's when the long knives came out.  Commenters left some pretty biting remarks about "flogging your linked blog."*
*I have to admit, the signature from one made me laugh out loud:
nobodyreadsyourlamefoodblog.blogspot.com
Maybe I should launch that site?


Oh, my. Have I crossed the line? Gone from signing my work to just being rude? Am I Blog Flogging instead of commenting? Where is the line, exactly?

I spent some time searching Google, and reading the commenting policy on the bigger blogs I follow - the answers were contradictory.*
*Imagine that.

After an email exchange with Daniel at Casual Kitchen (one of those blogs I have been commenting on, to get some feedback), I think I'm going to change my personal commenting policy to:

1. Say something that adds to the conversation.

2. Sign your work...but not with a http:// header - only add a link if you can actually use HTML in the comments.  My new "standard" signature will be MikeV @ DadCooksDinner.
*Technical details: This means, if the comments section can't handle DadCooksDinner, then I'm not getting a link back to my blog.


3. Never leave a comment on the New York Times again
*Sorry, hurt feelings

3. Be extra careful on the New York Times, and other sites that don't allow HTML in the comments.  Something about that http:// and .blogspot.com brings out the "stop pushing your blog!" in people.

So, again...readers, what do you think?





What is an acceptable level of promoting your blog in the comments of another blog?  Where's the line between linking back to your blog in the comments, and Blog Flogging?



Please leave an answer in the comments section below.  Thank you for the feedback!
*And I promise I won't yell at you if you include a link to your blog.


[Update 10/19/2009] Daniel of Casual Kitchen just posted his take on this in his Quick Writing Tips blog: A few words about blog comments [quickwritingtips.blogspot.com].

Road Trip: Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm


Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm is my favorite place in Akron, when late summer comes and the sweet corn starts rolling in.  Located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, they specialize in sweet corn, but have a ton of other vegetables.*
*Some of their vegetables are locally grown, and some aren't any different from what you get at the grocery store.  If that matters to you, just make sure you check their signs to see "fresh picked" or "local."  Their corn is always grown in Ohio, though some comes from fields they have South of Akron so they can start the season a little early.

Unlike some farmer's markets, they are open every day of the week.  With sweet corn, this really matters.  You want to eat sweet corn as soon as possible the day it is picked, because it starts converting its sugar into starch.  I make a special trip down to Szalay's on the day I want to cook my corn.

Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm
4563 Riverview Road
Peninsula, OH 44264
330-657-2727
Hours: Open daily, 9am-7pm, mid June to October 31st.
SzalaysFarm.com

My top five list of favorite things they sell are, in no particular order:

It grills, it makes music...

I have a follow-up to my Why Weber post from the other day.  And boy, is it a doozy.

A dobro is a resonant instrument, similar to a slide guitar.  A DobroQue is...well, just watch:



My hero, Alton Brown, has always said that there's no room for a unitasker in the kitchen....but this is ridiculous.

[h/t seriouseats.com]

Related posts:
Why Weber?

Rotisserie Pan Soup, Barbacoa style

Enough teasing.  Here is my favorite sentence in the instructions of a recipe:
With the precision of a steady-handed circus performer, carefully remove the pan of soup from the bottom of the grill. [Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen]
That sentence has everything - specific instructions, a colorful allegory that explains things better than a picture could, a grill - it's a thing of beauty.
*My second favorite sentence comes from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way.  It's part of his recipe for Una Vaca Entera.  (Yes, "One Entire Cow".)  It goes:
I must confess, after a lifetime of following fancy French recipes, that it gives me great pleasure to write the following list of ingredients:
1 medium cow, about 1400 pounds, butterflied, skin removed
2 gallons salumera
2 gallons Chimichurri

This soup is a great idea for a side dish when you're cooking on the rotisserie; you're going to have fat and meat juices dripping into the pan anyhow, why not make use of them?  And the soup is delicious.  I was going to recommend using homemade stock instead of water, but you don't need it.  The dripping juices from the meat give you more than enough flavor.

Recipe: Rotisserie Pan Soup, Barbacoa style

Rotisserie Beef Chuck Roast Barbacoa

I'm a big fan of beef*, but not beef prices.
*I don't think any of my blog readers would confuse me with a vegetarian.

Beef rib roast is my favorite, but it can be very expensive.   What do I do when I want a beef roast, but don't want to spend an arm and a leg?  I cook a chuck roast, from the shoulder of the steer.
*Arms?  Legs?  Shoulders?  What is this, an anatomy lesson?  Well, sort of.  Read on...

Shoulder meat is tougher than the expensive cuts, but it contains a lot of connective tissue that will melt into tender collagen if you cook it long enough.  The traditional way to do this is a pot roast, but I've become a fan of cooking beef chuck low and slow on the grill.  If you give it long enough, it comes out nice and tender.

I'm cooking a Tex-Mex version of pot roast, called Barbacoa.  It's adapted from a recipe by Rick Bayless.  He puts the meat (in his case, lamb shoulder) on the grill rack over a pan, and then uses the pan to make a side-dish soup at the same time the roast is cooking.  I knew it would be perfect on the rotisserie. You're already suspending the meat over the soup, why not give it a spin while it's there?
*Rick's recipe has my favorite sentence in a recipe, ever.  But you're going to have to have patience; the Rotisserie Soup recipe is coming later this week.
**Update: The Rotisserie Soup recipe is here!  Make sure you make this with the Barbacoa.  You won't regret it.


Recipe: Rotisserie Beef Chuck Roast Barbacoa

What does "Season to Taste" mean, exactly?

The Kitchn has a great post on how to properly season a dish.  When a recipe says "season to taste", what do they mean?

I tried to cover this in my Turkey Noodle Soup post, but after reading their version...boy, did I ever Fail.

They explain the thought process I go through when I'm seasoning soup, but they have some important clues that I couldn't put into words.

My explanation of when to add salt:
The tasting part of the recipe is the key piece. Does it seem bland? Add salt.
Their explanation:
1. Does It Need Salt? - Nine times out of ten, it does. Salt reduces bitterness and amplifies other flavors in a dish. We add it a half-teaspoon at a time until we can taste those two things happen and just before the dish actually tastes salty. [thekitchn.com]
That's IT!  I add salt until I taste that "reducing of bitterness."  I've always thought of it as adding salt and tasting,  until the soup starts to taste "a little sweet" - that's what I've learned to look for.
*I mention soup specifically, because this set of instructions is key for making good tasting soup.  Soup always needs something extra; more salt, spices, and some acid are requirements for a good soup.  


**That's one of the (many) things that I loved about Ratatouille; the scene where Remy is trying to fix the soup, and he thinks he's done.  He's leaving.  Then he slows down, and starts snapping his fingers.  You can see him thinking, "It's still missing something..."

They have a (great) five point list, but mine is usually a three step list:

  1. Add salt until it you taste it start to taste "a little sweet".
  2. Add spices (pepper, fresh herbs if they're in the dish) until the spices are in balance with the rest of the flavors.  I taste for "do I taste the spices?"  If the dish doesn't have fresh herbs in it, I just add freshly ground black pepper.  I don't add extra dried herbs or spices; they taste "gritty" to me, and I've learned to make sure they cook with the dish.  If it's already in the dish, adding a little extra fresh herbs at the end can make a big difference in the flavor.
  3. Add acid (hot sauce, lemon juice, or vinegar) if it tastes one-dimensional - again, I taste for "is it just sweet, or is there something else going on there?"  If it's just sweet, I add a little acid and taste again.  Hot sauce works really well, because the acid from the vinegar and the heat from the peppers both act to boost the flavor, but you have to be careful.  If the dish isn't supposed to be "hot", I add a dash of hot sauce, then switch to vinegar or lemon juice.

*Their list is better, but I lose patience after three steps when I'm finishing a dish.  

I do this automatically with soup, to the point that I'm going to get burned someday (that 10th time out of 10 they mention).  I add some salt, pepper and a splash of hot sauce, THEN I taste the soup.

Don't forget to season to taste!


Cook's Tricks: How to Properly Season a Dish [thekitchn.com]

Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments, below.

Related posts:
When should you salt meat?

*Enjoyed this post?  Want to help out DadCooksDinner?  Subscribe to DadCooksDinner using the RSS or Email options on the right, link to this post from your blog, recommend DadCooksDinner to your friends, or buy something from Amazon.com through the links on this site.  Thank you!

Vietnamese Sandwich (Bahn Mi) with Chicken


Now we're down to brass tacks. This is why I showed you the butterflied asian chicken, and had you make extra. I just wanted you to have the ingredients for this recipe.

Vietnamese Sandwich, or Bahn Mi, was a flavor revelation to me earlier this year, when I went for dinner at Superior Pho in Cleveland.
*I know, I know - foodies on the coasts have known abut the glory of Bahn Mi for years now. I'm sorry I was late to the party. This recipe is still worth it.

I took one bite, then started dissecting my sandwich right there on the table, to figure out how to make one by myself. The combination Vietnamese-French ingredients - the Vietnamese filling, and the crispy loaf of French bread - is a match made in taste heaven.
*Of course this is the Americanized version of a Vietnamese classic street food. Here's a New York Times article on the variations made in NYC. That article has the best sandwich picture I've ever seen - an exploded view of a Bahn Mi, layer by layer.

I'm taking a couple of short-cuts here, and the main one is using leftover chicken. The meat in a Bahn Mi is usually different varieties of pork, but the grilled chicken works so well that I don't miss it.

Beyond this recipe, use the general idea of "sandwich" with leftovers. Why pay a deli six dollars a pound for chicken breast when you've got some in the fridge? Buy a loaf of french bread at the grocery store, pretend you're the guy making minimum wage behind the counter at Subway*, and start adding whatever else you have in the fridge. If you've got good bread, pickles, peppers, and lettuce, you're always a few minutes away from a great sub sandwich.
*If you ARE the guy making minimum wage behind the counter at Subway, then I don't blame you if you don't make this recipe. After I worked at McDonald's as a teenager, it was years before I could go back into one. I kept having this dream, where all the different beeps that tell you things are done kept getting louder, and louder, and louder...I'd wake up shaking. And wanting to drop some more french fries.


I know I've focused on Asian style food with this set of posts, but think of this as a general idea, not a specific recipe.  What leftovers do you have that would go well on a loaf of french bread?

Recipe: Vietnamese Sandwich (Bahn Mi) with Chicken

Asian Noodle Salad with Chicken

Time to use some leftover chicken! If you're following along, you have some grilled asian chicken in your refrigerator, and (hopefully) some of the dipping sauce.
*If not, that's OK - I've made this salad with "plain" leftover chicken, and made the dressing on the fly. Or, a la minute in French. I bet you didn't think I could work my love of france into an Asian Noodle Salad, did you?

When I have leftovers, one of my first thoughts is "salad".  Steak and blue cheese salad, Greek Salad with chicken, chicken caesar salad* - if you have some leftover protein and some greens you can whip up a meal that doesn't seem much like leftovers with very little effort.  Just be sure to make your own salad dressing!
*(fill in protein here) caesar salad has turned into a cliche on restaurant menus.  Do it at home, for a weeknight dinner that's ready in about 15 minutes, and you're a hero.

This salad is a work of art. The different colors and textures layered in this salad give it an amazing presentation. I like to serve it in one big bowl, and let everyone grab with a set of tongs.

I know this seems like a lot of prep work, but trust me*, it's worth it.  If you've got average knife skills, this shouldn't take much longer to put together than any other dinner, and it winds up being a dinner in a bowl.
*My dad's a doctor...I know what I'm doing!  Oh, and my brother is one, too.
**For some reason, that doesn't sound as impressive as when they do it.

Recipe: Asian Noodle Salad with Chicken

Why Weber?

Why Weber?

When we moved into our house, the first thing I wanted was a Weber kettle for my back yard.  Why?  I'm not sure, exactly, but that was one of the best gut feelings I've ever had.
*To paraphrase "High Fidelity" - normally, when I trust my gut, it has rocks for brains.  But not this time!

I think I wanted one because it's a classic of American design.  It's immediately identifiable.  If you have a commercial, and you want people to know it's someone's back yard, you have a red Weber kettle sitting in the background.
*Never mind that they haven't made them in red for a while now.  Of course, what I really want is the Homer Simpson Limited Edition Charcoal Kettle.
**See the history of weber grills through this link: Weber Timeline.  The Wishing Well Weber leaves me giggling...

That grill started me on was the odyssey that led to this blog.  My first few grill sessions were hit or miss, so I went on this newfangled internet thing to find out what I was doing wrong.  (Oh, and I needed a recipe for ribs.)  I found the Virtual Weber Bullet, and it picked up momentum from there.
*I also went to the Big Green Egg forum.  Who knows what I'd be talking about now if I had the money to buy one back then?

So...why am I so brand loyal when it comes to Weber?  They provide the best value in grills.  There are some that are cheaper; there are some that are more expensive.  Weber, hands down, gives you the best value for your money.  Why?  Three reasons: design, support, and accessories.

The first is design. There's a reason the Weber kettle is a classic, and it's not just good looks.  It's a beautiful, bulletproof design.  It's flexible enough to handle grilling and grill roasting, the two-piece body doesn't have any gaps for wind to get in, and it is compact enough that you can fit it in the trunk of a '98 Toyota Corolla if you take the legs off and nest the pieces.
*Yes, I do this all the time.

The Genesis gas grill introduced Weber's "Flavorizer Bars.  Those V-shaped bars replaced all those awful lava rocks in grills.  Lava rocks are gone now; everyone uses some variation on the V shaped bar that Weber pioneered.  And they sell really, REALLY heavy grates for their gas grills.  While they don't come standard on their inexpensive grills, you can get them as replacement parts for any of their grills.  The cast iron or steel rod grates really hold on to heat, which is the key to good searing on a gas grill.
Weber isn't resting on their laurels, either.  The "one-touch" ash catching system that they added to the kettle in 2000 is a marvel.
*Also, they're almost indestructible.  My Weber Genesis Silver C was on my deck for a week, when a windstorm came up.  I was watching out the back window, wondering if I remembered to lock the wheel casters, when I saw the grill vibrate, then slide across the deck.  The grill cover was acting like a sail...right over the edge of my deck, a three foot drop.  I ran out and righted the grill, fearing the worst.  Once the wind died down, I followed instructions, wiped the hoses down with soapy water, and turned it on...not a leak to be found.  The grill worked beautifully, even with the crash landing, and is still going strong.  I find myself double checking the wheels on the grill every now and then to make sure I have them locked...


Want a second opinion? Alton Brown, in his new book, Good Eats: The Early Years, goes over the grill recommendations that he gave in his Grill Seekers episode.  Then he adds this aside:
The grill I used in this episode rotted away from use some time ago, but the red Weber kettle I've been using since "Hook, Line and Dinner" is still going strong.  That's not a product endorsement, mind you, but it is a testament to solid design.

The second reason is support.  Weber has a help line staffed 24/7; if you have a question, just call.  Or email; they've helped me out a number of times that way.  Because grills live outdoors, the non-coated parts will start to rust, eventually.  (Make sure you keep your grill covered when not in use!)  If you need a part, they've got it.  When you rust out a grate, you can get a new one at almost any major hardware store; if they don't have it, just give Weber a call and they'll ship it out to you.  Kept your grill long enough that you rusted out the burners?  Yes, they have those as well - just follow instructions, and you can slide the new ones right in.  These grills are built with the opposite of "planned obsolescence".  When I got my new, jumbo, 6 burner Weber Summit, I gave my trusty Weber Genesis to my sister-in-law.  It's still going strong, and it's close to ten years old.


Part of their support is their constant promotion of outdoor cooking; they support it as a hobby (and an obsession).  They publish cookbooks, support good grilling shows, have an online community, they send out free booklets.  They even donated the grills that were used in the steak cook-off I won!
*Yes, I know this is self-serving.  I view it more as enlightened self interest.  They don't just want to sell you a grill, they want you to use it, and be happy with it, so you'll buy another one.  Weber has done more to promote grilling in America than...well, almost everyone else combined.

Me and my little buddy.

Finally, the accessories.  Beyond just the replacement grates, they have the accessory that I almost love more than the kettle itself, the Weber Kettle Rotisserie.  This makes the grill even more versatile, and I've got a bunch of things you can try with it.*  Their charcoal chimney is another case of their great design; it's the perfect size, and the second loop handle helps you put the coals exactly where you want them while you juggle a flaming hot cylinder of charcoal.
*Start with the rotisserie chicken.  Trust me.

Are Weber grills perfect?  No.  The gas grills can be a little expensive for the features you get, but I think their bulletproof design, quality build and excellent support make up for the cost difference.  I wish they could add a way to raise and lower the charcoal grate in the kettles, but I worry it would mess with the simplicity of their design.  I wish the massive Ranch Kettle was cheaper, but the new (re-released) 26-Inch Kettle is probably the larger size kettle I need.  Now if they would just make a rotisserie attachment for it...

In closing...I love Weber.  Sure, there are other great grills out there.  But if what you want is not the cheapest, not the fanciest, but the best value, then I think Weber wins hands down.

*PS: This is NOT a paid advertisement; I don't receive any sort of support from Weber (beyond what anyone else would get when they call their 1-800 number).  I don't receive any financial support or free items from anyone; if I recommend something on this blog, it's because I find it  useful.


**However, If Weber offered to sponsor this blog...I'd agree in a heartbeat.  But I'd let you know about it as well, in big, bold type.

*Thanks to blog reader (and old freind) Geoff, who asked the question that started this rant...


Questions? Comments?  Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.