Friday, October 14, 2016

Hawaiian Meatballs

Here's a throwback to the past. I don't know if Hawaiian meatballs are actually Hawaiian or if someone just came up with this island moniker because of the dish's signature pineapple-based sauce. Regardless, Hawaiian meatballs have been around for years (Betty Crocker has a recipe for them) and are still a staple for retro and luau-tiki-themed cocktail parties. They're easy to make and the sweet tangy sauce is delicious mixed with steamed white rice, so I think they're great for any occasion. They also freeze and reheat well so you can go to town, make a ton, and have a bunch on hand for that rainy day when you absolutely, flat-out just don't wanna cook. Speaking of throwbacks, aren't we all occasionally nostalgic for Rumaki, deviled eggs, Crab Rangoon, Chicken a la King, cream cheese-stuffed celery, Pigs in a Blanket, Vienna sausages, pineapple upside down cake, Jello salad, tuna noodle casserole, Grasshoppers (cocktail with Creme de Menthe), and Mai Tais (a la Trader Vic's)? Just sayin!


2 lbs. ground beef, ground turkey, or a blend of 1 lb. ground beef & 1 lb. ground pork
2-3 slices white bread
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 cup flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil


3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cider or white vinegar
3 6-oz. cans pineapple juice (about 2 1/2 cups)
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Cornstarch slurry: 2 tbsp. cornstarch + 3 tbsp. water

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into small dice
Minced scallions and/or cilantro for garnish


1. Combine the crumbled white bread slices and milk together in a bowl. Let sit for a few minutes until the bread is thoroughly soaked.

2. Place all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl; add the bread-milk mixture and combine  (I use my hands) until all the ingredients are just blended. Do not over mix.

3. Shape the meat mixture into 1 1/2" meatballs using a tablespoon. Roll lightly in flour and place on a parchment paper or aluminum foil-line baking sheet. Should make about 40 meatballs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before frying.

4. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a wok or skillet. Cook the meatballs in batches (don't overcrowd) and brown on all sides and until just cooked through. Remove the browned meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. 

5. Make the sauce: Using the same wok or skillet (drained of any excess oil), combine all the sauce ingredients together. Bring to a boil and add the meatballs. Bring back up to a boil and stir in the cornstarch slurry and diced green bell peppers. Cook until the sauce has thickened.

6. To serve: pour the meatballs and sauce onto a platter. If serving as appetizers, put a colorful toothpick into each meatball. Garnish with finely minced scallions and/or cilantro and serve with steamed white rice on the side.

 Mash the bread together in the milk.

 Ground cloves, ground ginger, black pepper, garlic powder and kosher salt for the meatballs.

 Combine the meat with the seasonings, 2 eggs, and the bread-milk mixture.

 Mix together until just blended.

 Shape the meat into meatballs and coat with flour.

 Fry the meatballs in batches (don't overcrowd or they won't brown properly) and brown on both sides until just cooked through. Remove to drain on paper towels.

For the sauce: pineapple juice, soy sauce, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and diced green bell pepper.

 In the same pan, drained of excess oil, stir in all the sauce ingredients and bring up to a boil. Add the meatballs and continue cooking until the sauce comes back up to a boil.

 Add the diced green bell peppers.

Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook until the sauce has thickened to a glaze-like consistency. Remove from heat and serve appetizer style (with a toothpick in each meatball) or family style on a serving platter. Garnish with finely chopped scallions and/or cilantro and serve with steamed white rice on the side.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions

So what do you do when you have a ton of leftover pulled pork? Well, how 'bout some pulled pork mac and cheese? You can't go wrong with macaroni in a Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Sharp Cheddar and caramelized onions béchamel sauce that's topped with fresh buttered bread crumbs and baked until lightly golden and bubbly. 

Caramelized Onions:
2 onions, thinly sliced 
6 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1 lb. large elbow macaroni

Bechamel Sauce:
7 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder or paprika

6 oz. Gruyere cheese
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese

Bread Crumb Topping:
3 slices white bread
2 tbsp. butter, melted (30 seconds in the microwave will do the trick)

2 cups pulled pork (here's my electric smoker pulled pork recipe):

Minced scallions for garnish



1. Heat 6 tbsp. oil in a saute pan over high heat. Add the onion slices, reduce heat to medium or medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.

2. Cook the macaroni according to package instructions (usually 10-12 minutes) until al dente. Pour the macaroni into a colander and rinse with cool water; set aside. 

3. Shred the 3 cheeses through a box grater & set aside. The consensus amongst mac and cheese cooks and aficionados is that you should never use pre-shredded cheese when making your own. I will not beg to differ.

4. Place 3 slices of white bread into a food processor & process for several seconds until crumbly; pour the bread crumbs into a bowl and stir in 2 tbsp. melted butter.

5. Butter a 9" x 12" casserole dish generously on all sides.

6. FOR THE BÉCHAMEL: Melt 1 stick of butter in a saute pan. Add 3/4 cups of flour and stir constantly with a wire whisk for a few minutes until well combined. Add 7 cups whole milk and 1 cup of heavy cream and stir constantly with the wire whisk until the sauce mixture has thickened.

7. Add the shredded cheeses to the béchamel and season with black pepper and ancho chili powder or paprika.

8. Stir in the caramelized onion and pulled pork. 

9. Pour the mac mixture into the buttered casserole dish and top with the buttered bread crumbs. 

10. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbly.

11. Plate and garnish with finely minced scallions, if desired. 

Caramelized onion.


Sharp Cheddar.

Monterey Jack.

Grate/shred the cheese with a box grater or shredder.

Cook the macaroni according to package directions until al dente.

Pour the mac into a colander and rinse with cool tap water.

Place the bread slices into a food processor and pulse for several seconds until they become crumbly.

Stir the melted butter into the bread crumbs.

Butter all sides of the baking dish.

Heat the milk and cream together in a medium pot until warmed through (do not boil).

In the meantime, melt 1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter in a saute pan. 

Add the flour to the melted butter and stir constantly with a wire whisk for 10-15 seconds to incorporate.

Add the warm milk-cream mixture to the roux and stir constantly until the sauce has thickened.

Stir in the shredded cheese.

Season with black pepper and Ancho chili powder or paprika.

Stir in the caramelized onion and pulled pork.

Pour the mac and cheese mixture into the baking pan, top with the buttered bread crumbs, and bake for 35-40 minutes until hot and bubbly.


Plate and garnish with a sprinkling of minced green onion.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grilled Cap of Ribeye with Gyu Dare/Ponzu Style Dipping Sauce

The amazingly succulent and tender taste of cap of ribeye is hard for me to describe, so I defer to the description from Snake River Farms where I bought this beautiful piece of steak for our 9/23/16 camping trip at Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park 

"This rare cut is considered to be the single most delectable and flavorful steak available. Also known as the ribeye cap, deckle steak, calotte or spinalis dorsi, it is highly prized by top chefs, beef aficionados, and butchers alike. Surprisingly, a cut this spectacular is not universally known by its name, however anyone who has cut that small morsel of cap from a ribeye has realized there’s something special going on. If you look at a ribeye steak, you’ll see the large eye of meat that’s the center of the cut. Surrounding this center is the spinalis dorsi, or cap of ribeye. We carefully remove this from the entire ribeye roll to produce a beautiful cut that has the tenderness of a filet mignon, the rich marbling of a rib steak, and a mouthwatering flavor and texture all its own. The cap of ribeye is hard to find and is only available in limited quantities."

After rubbing the meat lightly with olive oil on all sides, I seasoned it with just salt and pepper. Once the meat was grilled to medium rare, we served it with a simple ponzu-style dipping sauce. Doesn't get better than that.

 Perfectly medium rare cap of ribeye, fresh off the campfire grill

1 1/2 lbs. cap of ribeye
1-2 tbsp. Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Gyu Dare/Ponzu-Style Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 to 1 cup water
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated (1 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. white toasted sesame seeds
3 scallions, minced

1. Combine all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a bowl or Ziploc container; cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. Rub the ribeye cap on both sides with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil (just enough to lightly coat).

3. Sprinkle both sides of the ribeye cap with salt and pepper.

4. Prep your grill (charcoal briquets or wood chunks should be burned down until they are mostly white hot). 

5. Oil the grill grate, if needed (fold a couple paper towels together into a 3" x 3" square, dip into vegetable oil, and brush over the grates with tongs).

6. Place the seasoned ribeye cap on the grill.

7. Cook through to medium rare, turning the ribeye once during the grilling process.

8. Remove the ribeye to a platter or chopping board and let rest 5 minutes.  Cut the ribeye cap into 2-3 portions and plate.

9. Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

 A 12-lb. boneless cap of ribeye from Snake River Farms

Remove the ribeye from its plastic wrap. Place on a try and season lightly on both sides with kosher salt and black pepper

Grill until medium rare

Let the ribeye rest for 5 minutes off the grill, then cut into 2 or 3 portions.

Plate and serve with the ponzu-style dipping sauce on the side.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Smoked Pulled Pork with Eastern North Carolina-Style Vinegar Sauce and Cole Slaw

In my previous post I kinda raved about our success in making smoked beef brisket using our new CharBroil electric smoker, but our first use of the CharBroil smoker was actually in making this Carolina-style pulled pork. For this recipe, smoking a spice-rubbed bone-in pork butt low and slow at 225F for about 10-12 hours was the way to go. And, of course, a North Carolina-style vinegar sauce and cole slaw were also requisite. After perusing a ton of recipes for the rub, vinegar sauce, and cole slaw in my cookbooks and online, these are my versions. Also, per the suggestion of a number of online posters, Gil decided to inject the pork with a bottle of Angry Orchard hard cider before smoking to keep it moist. Another suggestion from CharBroil's website for keeping the meat moist is to brine it for 8-12 hours before smoking. We'll try that next time and I'll report the results then. 

7-8 lb. pork butt or shoulder (bone-in)
1 bottle of Angry Orchard or other brand of hard cider
4 cups hickory or cherry wood chips

Hawaiian buns, brioche buns, your fav hamburger buns, or my fav Oro Wheat Crustini Sandwich buns

1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Eastern North Carolina-Style Vinegar Sauce:
2 cups cider vinegar
3 tbsp. ketchup
4 tbsp. light brown sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. Crystal or Tabasco hot sauce
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. honey

Cole Slaw:
2 cups of pre-shredded cole slaw mix
4 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
4 tbsp. of the Eastern North Carolina-Style Vinegar Sauce
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar

1. Combine the ingredients for the spice rub together in a small bowl or container and set aside.

2. Combine the ingredients together for the Vinegar Sauce in a bowl or container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Toss all the cole slaw ingredients together in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Soak the wood chips in water for 15-30 minutes. 

5. Put the wood chips in the metal wood chip container, cover, and slide into it's slot in the lower right hand corner of the CharBroil smoker (or follow directions on placement if you have a different brand of electric smoker). 

6. Fill the metal water container with water up to the fill line and place into the lower left hand corner of the CharBroil smoker (or follow directions on placement if you have a different brand of electric smoker). 

7. Insert the meat thermometer inside of the smoker (upper left in the CharBroil); Preheat the smoker to 225F (this may take up to 45 minutes).

4. Trim any excess fat but leaving some of the fat cap on the pork butt. Inject the hard apple cider throughout the pork butt. Blot the pork butt dry with paper towels.

5. Rub the entire pork butt generously with the spice rub; place a large drip pan on the lower rack of the smoker and then place the pork butt onto the upper rack. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the pork butt; close the smoker and set internal temperature for 190F. 

6. Pork should be done in 10-12 hours (goal is to get to an internal temp of 190F - the smoker will let you know when that happens by beeping and/or alerting you via smart phone app). 

7. Remove the pork (use silicone oven gloves to do this if you have them) from the smoker, cover with foil, and let rest for one hour. 

8. Use meat claws or your gloved hands to pull the pork apart and shred. Place the shredded meat onto a large cutting board and chop coarsely with a cleaver. 

9. Place the chopped meat into a large baking dish/casserole; ladle on about 1/3 to 1/2 of the vinegar sauce, tasting as you go, until the pork is just seasoned through (don't over dress). Pour the remaining vinegar sauce into a squeeze bottle and set aside. 

1. Lightly toast the buns. If desired, spread a small amount of light mayonnaise on the bottom and top parts of the bun.

2. Place a heaping helping of the pulled pork onto the bottom piece of the bun and top with a generous amount of cole slaw.

3. Serve with extra vinegar sauce on the side (in a small dipping dish or squeeze bottle).

4. Dig in.

Spice rub: celery seed, ground cumin, dried mustard, black pepper, garlic powder, onion, powder, light brown sugar, cayenne pepper, ground coriander.

Hickory or cherry wood chips are best for this recipe. Mesquite would be too strong.

Fill the smoker's water container up to the fill line. If the water completely evaporates during the smoking period, just add some extra water to the drip pan below the meat. It's easier to access so you don't have to keep the smoker open too long for the refill.

Even though you don't need to soak the wood chips in water for the electric smoker, we like to do it anyways (15-30 minutes soak time).

A nice 7.5 lb. bone-in pork butt.

Gil trimming off some of the excess fat.

Injecting the Angry Orchard hard cider into the pork butt.

Damn! Why does this remind me of being at the dentist's?

Wood chip box.

Placing the wood chip box into the smoker.

Wood chip box to the bottom right, water container to the left.

Blot the pork butt dry with paper towels.

Rub the pork butt on all sides generously with the spice rub. 

Place a large roasting pan on the lower rack for use as a drip pan. Place the pork on the upper rack and insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast. Close the smoker and smoke 10-12 hours until the internal temperature reaches 190F.

For the vinegar sauce: salt, pepper, light brown sugar, ketchup, cider vinegar, Crystal hot sauce, red pepper flakes.

I use honey as a sweetener for the vinegar sauce.

Pre-shredded cole slaw mix.

For the cole slaw: dried mustard, mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar sauce, black pepper.

Combine the cole slaw mix with the seasoning ingredients, stir well, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Take the pork out after it reaches 190F internal temperature. 

Cover with foil and let rest 1 hour.

Shred the meat and discard the bone.

Place the shredded meat onto a chopping board.

Chop with a cleaver.

Ladle in about half of the vinegar sauce, tasting as you go. Don't over-sauce! Reserve the rest of the vinegar sauce for later use (I pour it into a squeeze bottle).

Toast some buns. If desired, spread a small amount of mayo on the buns. 

Top with a generous helping of the pulled pork and some cole slaw. Serve with extra vinegar sauce on the side.