Grilled Pork Kebabs with Sweet Sriracha Glaze

April 25, 2015

I was a little premature in my plans to grill these Pork Kebabs last night, as it was quite cold and was accompanied by few snow flakes. I was extremely excited to give this new recipe a try, as the kebabs can be ready in just 1 hour from start-to-finish; perfect for a weeknight summer meal. My older son loved the kebabs and ate 2 full skewers (he rated them highly; 4-stars). While the technique resulted in perfectly cooked pork, I was disappointed that the promise of the hot/sweet/salty flavors was not, in the end, well-balanced. The pork was too sweet, lacking heat and salt.  Overall, an easy 1 hour meal. Worth making, but I can rate it only 3-stars.

Flavors slightly out-of-balance

Flavors slightly out-of-balance

The recipe was not clear as to when to ignite the charcoal. If you are pressed for time, I would recommend lighting it right after salting the pork. The recipe will take a total of 45 minutes. Last night I followed the order of the recipe and ignited after the preparing the skewers, which may have allowed the flavors to be absorbed by the pork; and added about 25 minutes.


  1. The ingredients call for a total of 1-1/2 pounds of pork tenderloin, and the in-package weight of mine was 2-1/2 pounds. I didn’t check the final trimmed weight, and am not sure if that was the cause of lack of salt.
  2. Also, the balance of flavors was overly sweet. It lacked a little heat from the Sriracha and salt.
  3. I minced 1/4 cup of cilantro, but didn’t use all.
  4. If using a gas grill, pre-heat for 15-minutes with all burners to high before cleaning and oiling the grill. When cooking, just leave the primary burner on high. All other burners should be turn off.
  5. Check to see if your pork is enhanced (i.e. injected with a salt solution), and if so do not sprinkle with salt in step 1.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 5:15 PM. Ready at 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

2 (12-ounce) pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Vegetable oil spray
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

  1. Trim away the silverskin and any extra fat from the tenderloin. Cut into 1″-cubes. Add to a large bowl and  sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher. Toss until combined and allow to stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together brown sugar, Sriracha, and cornstarch together. Measure out 1-1/2 tablespoons of the Sriracha mixture and set aside from brushing the meat on the grill.
  3. After the 20 minutes has passes, add the remaining Sriracha mixture to pork and toss until evenly coated.
  4. Thread the pork cubes onto four-to-five 12″ skewers; leave 1/4″ between the pieces of pork. Generously spray both sides of meat skewers with vegetable oil spray.
  5. Open the bottom and top vents completely, and ignite a chimney starter filled with charcoal; about 6 quarts. After 20 minutes and the top coals become partially covered with ash, empty over half the grill leaving the other half empty. Replace cooking grate, cover and pre-heat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil cooking grate.
  6. Put pork on hot side of the grill for about 4 minutes until well charred. If it’s a cold day I recommend covering; otherwise leave uncovered. Flip over and brush the tops with reserved Sriracha mixture. Cook the second side for about 4 more minutes; take the internal temperature of the meat and remove when it registers 140-degrees.
  7. Remove to a serving platter, loosely tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with minced cilantro and serve.

Jerk Chicken on Gas Grill

April 20, 2015

While visiting my brother in Las Vegas, I had some doubts about making Jerk Chicken on a Gas Grill. Yet, the chicken itself ended up well seasoned and delicious. The 24 hour marinade permeated deep into the chicken, and also left a dark flavorful crust. Overall, the recipe was a success. The main drawback about making this on the gas grill, was that I was not able to get proper aroma and smoke flavors coming from the spice-filled smoking packet. When I put the smoking packet on the grill grate above the burner, the packet didn’t become hot enough to generate much smoke. Then when I placed it directly on the burner element, the wood chips simply caught fire. You should make this recipe even if you only have a gas grill, but still this charcoal grill version is better.

Delicious and no need for sauce

Delicious and no need for sauce

Before Chris Kimball made this recipe, I tried to make Jerk Chicken on my own, but it came out just so-so. Chris Kimball’s only previous Jerk Recipe because used 1/4-cup of brown sugar, which seems absurd to me.


  1. My past recommendation was to cut the 3 habaneros (including about 20% of seeds) down to just 2 habaneros chiles. Today, because my audience included kids, I used 3 jalapenos again including about 20% of seeds. It was tame
  2. Be sure to marinate the chicken for a full 24-hours, otherwise your flavor will not permeate into the meat of your chicken.
  3. If you don’t properly clean and season the grill in step 6 then the skin will stick to the grill.
  4. I used 5-lbs of thighs and allow the chicken to marinate for 24 hours. I still had a little room to throw in two boneless breasts for the last couple of hours to marinating; a back-up plan for any spice-o-phobe.
  5. If you go to Jamaica, the only thing better than Jerk Chicken is Jerk Pork.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:30 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM. (of course I started marinating the day before)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

Jerk Marinade:
1-1/2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 Habanero chiles (or 3 Jalapenos)
8 scallions
6 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (2 to 3 limes)
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5-lbs bone-in chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, drumsticks, and/or thighs)

Smoking Packet:
2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons water
1 cup wood chips

  1. Coarsely grind the whole coriander seeds, the allspice berries and whole peppercorns in a spice grinder. Add freshly ground spices to blender.
  2. Discard the stem from the chiles. Remove and reserve the ribs and seeds, then cut into quarters. Add to blender. Roughly chop scallions and garlic and add to blender. Add all the remaining ingredients (except the chicken) to the blender and process until a smooth paste forms. Empty the paste into a gallon-sized Zip-Lock bag.
  3. Trim the chicken to remove any excess fat (or ribs) and cut the breasts is half cross-wise. Add the chicken to the marinade and remove as much air as possible from the zip-lock bag. Allow to sit a room temperature for 30 minutes; flipping the bag over after 15 minutes. Refrigerate for 24-hours.
  4. Combine the spices for the smoke packet with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl, and allow to hydrate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak 1 cup of wood chips separately. When completely soaked, wrap the soaked chips and moistened spice mixture in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Use a paring knife to cut five or six vent holes in top of the packet.
  5. Set the wood chip packet over the primary burner and turn all burners onto highest setting. Close cover, and pre-heat grill for 15 to 25 minutes until the wood chips begin to smoke. Reduce primary burner to medium and turn off other burners.
  6. Use tongs and paper towels to season the grill grate with vegetable oil (otherwise the skin will stick to the grill).
  7. Leave some marinade on the chicken, and put chicken skin-side-up as far away from the heat as possible. Arrange so that the dark meat is closest to the heat, and the white meat is further. Cover grill and cook for 30 minutes.
  8. Flip chicken skin-side-down as you move the chicken directly over the primary burner. Cook for until well browned. Flip the chicken again skin-side-up and continue cooking directly over primary burner until the chicken reaches the correct temperature; 160 degrees for breasts and 175 degrees for thighs/drumsticks.
  9. Move to a serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil for 5 minutes. Slice limes for serving.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

April 11, 2015

Logistically tying together Bryce Canyon, Utah and the Grand Canyon’s southern rim into a single trip was a little challenging. It meant driving 5 hours through of some of this country’s most beautifully isolated landscape. We spent the night in Page, Arizona; the only real town for 100 miles in any direction. When I woke up the next morning, I realized that I was 5 miles away from a sight that I have wanted to see for more than 35 years. (click on the picture to see it full-screen)

Horseshoe Bend of Colorado River; just upstream from Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend of Colorado River; just upstream from Grand Canyon

Later that morning, we entered the Grand Canyon from the East and drove the 25 miles from the eastern entrance to Grand Canyon Village; stopping at the many view points along the canyon’s rim. The Grand Canyon is one of this countries most touristic parks with nearly 5 millions visitors per year. The crowds grew larger as we neared the village. Even though it is nowhere near peak season, walking along the rim trail I was overwhelmed by the crowds and tour groups. Yet with a little effort, I was able to escape the intense crowds. Hiking down into the canyon on the Kaibab trail to Ooh-Ahh point took just 1 hour. The switchbacks taking you off the rim are nerve-racking, and the views from Ooh-Ahh point are breathtaking.

Overall a smooth and wonderful trip.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

April 9, 2015

I have a mental list of places that I want to take my two sons. Despite that it is one of the lesser known National Parks, Bryce Canyon has always always been high on that list. I remember going when I was 13 years old with my parents; one of my best childhood vacations. For me, hiking amongst the Hoodoos turned out to be an unforgettable experience. I was happy to see that my own sons also enjoyed themselves.

From the rim of Bryce Canyon

From the rim of Bryce Canyon

We hiked down the steep switchbacks into the canyon and walked between the towering walls of red rock. We took the longest trail of 5-1/2 miles, and ended up vertically climbing half mile. It was an exhausting hike, but I am glad to have shared it with my sons.

The expansiveness of Bryce is hard to show without losing the uniqueness of its geological formations. This is truly like no other place on earth.

Bryce Canyon is only a 4-1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas. The challenge was combining it with visiting the Grand Canyon. But as often happens, that challenge meant we got to see one of the most picturesque points along the Colorado River (you have to check back in a few days to see, lol)

Ropa Vieja (Cuban Braised Shredded Beef)

March 28, 2015

I’ve made one of Chris Kimball’s older recipe for Ropa Vieja which used a slow-cooker, but today’s recipe uses a more traditional technique of browning the beef and cooking for 2 hours in the oven. It was much more flavorful and is a definite improvement over the older recipe. The recipe calls for brisket, which naturally has a very distinctive grain that lends itself perfectly towards shredding. The recipe was very well seasoned, though not at all “hot”. Next time I may add a Jalapeno or two. Overall, a delicious recipe; 4-stars.

Traditional cooking method is best

Traditional cooking method is best

In my experience Ropa Vieja is always served with white rice, but Chris Kimball has a recipe for beans and rice here.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $26.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 2:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared the soup today are given below:

2-pound beef brisket
Table salt and pepper
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, halved and sliced thin
2 red bell peppers
2 anchovy fillets
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped coarse
3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning

  1. Set a rack to lower/middle of your oven and pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Trim the fat on your brisket down to 1/4-inch. Slice the brisket against the grain into 2″-wide strips. The precise length isn’t that important, but cut any strips that are longer than 5″ in half to reduce their length. Pat beef dry using paper towels and season all sides with salt and pepper. Set a Dutch Oven over medium-high burner and pre-heat 4 tablespoons (1/4-cup) vegetable oil until it just begins to smoke. Brown all sides of the beef for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a large plate at set aside until Step 7.
  3. While the meat browns, prepare the vegetables by slicing the onions in half, peel and sliced thin. Remove the stem and seeds from your bell peppers, and slice into 1/4″-wide strips.
  4. When the pot is empty, add the onions and bell peppers and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the pan bottom develops a fond. Empty the vegetables to bowl and set aside.
  5. While the onions and peppers cook, rinse your anchovies, pat them dry using paper towels and mince. Also peel and mince your garlic.
  6. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to now-empty pot, Add minced anchovies, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook for 30 seconds until they become fragrant. Stir in wine, and de-glaze the bottom of the pan. Cook for 1 minute until mostly evaporated. Add broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaves.
  7. Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot and bring up to a simmer over high burner. Move pot to 300-degree oven and cook, covered, for 2 to 2-1/4 hours until the beef is just tender; flipping meat after 1 hour.
  8. Remove beef to cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes until cool enough to handle.  Pull apart into 1/4″-thick pieces.
  9. Fish out bay leaves from pot and discard. Chop olives and add to pot along with the onions/peppers reserved in Step 4. Bring up to a boil over medium-high burner and allow to thicken for 5 minutes. Mix in the shredded beef and add vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste.

Poached Cod with Miso-Ginger Vinaigrette

March 23, 2015

A few years ago I made this latin 5-star poached cod, and today tried an Asian variation. As before, the fish was perfectly cooked; moist and tender. The flavors were balanced, but the flavors were more subtle than the previous Latin variation. I simply added more sauce to my plate, and it worked out great. It did take me quite a while for me to find the white miso paste required for this recipe (which turns out to be in the refrigerated Asian section). I ended up going to an Asian supermarket. Overall, a delicious 4-star meal; but not as good as the 5-star Latin version.

Interesting Asian flavors

Interesting Asian flavors


  1. In Chris Kimball’s original recipe, he says to let the oil cool down to 180-degrees. Today I cooked the scallions for 4 minutes and had to wait about 5 minutes for the oil to cool down. When I made the Latin-themed version and I fried the jalapenos for only 2 minutes, I had to heat up the oil in step 5 instead of allow it to cool.
  2. Trying to find a flaky white fish that is a consistent 1″ thick is difficult. The thinner parts were almost as delicious, even if there were slightly over-cooked.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $17.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 5:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared the soup today are given below:

4 skinless white fish fillets about 1″-thick.
Kosher salt
8 scallion whites
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 peeled onion
2 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
2 scallion greens, thinly sliced

6 scallion greens
8 teaspoons lime juice
2 tablespoons mirin
4 teaspoons white miso paste
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

  1. Set a rack to both the middle and the lower-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 250-degrees.
  2. Cut your fish into 6-oz pieces and pat dry using paper towels. Sprinkle each fillet with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, Slice the scallions whites into 1/4″ slices. Dredge your scallion whites in corn starch. Cut your onion if half, peel one half and save the second half for another day.
  4. Set a 10″ non-stick skillet over medium burner. Add 1/2 cup oil and pre-heat until shimmering. Fry scallion whites for 3 to 4 minutes until crisp. Pour the contends of the skillet through a fine-mesh strainer into a Pyrex measuring cup. Remove fried scallions to paper towel–lined Pyrex pie plate or casserole dish. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt. No need to wash the strainer yet.
  5. Increase amount of oil in measuring cup so that you have 3/4 cup, and pour back into the skillet (but off the heat). Put the onion cut-side-down in the center of the skillet. Allow the oil to cool to 180-degrees, which could take between zero and 8 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare your ingredients for the vinaigrette. Roughly cut the scallion greens and add to blender. Add lime juice, 2 tablespoons mirin, 4 teaspoons white miso paste, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sugar; but do not blend until step 10. (you’re still waiting to add some olive oil from the fish)
  7. Place fish with skin-side-up in oil, which should rise to cover about half-way up the fillets. Spoon a little oil over each piece of fish, cover your pan, and place on middle rack and cook for 15 minutes at 250-degrees.
  8. Remove covered skillet from oven and flip fish using two spatulas. Replace lid onto skillet and place on middle rack and continue to cook for 10 minutes longer until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 135-degrees. After 5 minutes of cooking put the fried scallions on the lower-middle oven rack to warm them through.
  9. When fish reaches desired temperature, place on serving platter and tent with aluminum foil.
  10. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil used to cook the fish to blender. Blend for 1 minute on high-speed. Add any juices from fish that have accumulated to blender, adjust salt according to your taste. Blend for 10 more seconds on high-speed. Run vinaigrette through fine-mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press solids down to extract as much vinaigrette as possible.
  11. Place each fish fillet on individual serving place and top with fried scallions, radish slices and sprinkle with thinly sliced scallion greens. Drizzle vinaigrette around each individual piece of fish (not on-top). Serve remaining vinaigrette separately.

Mu Shu Pork

March 16, 2015

For me a big Sunday dinner has become an important part of my life (a tradition I adopted during my year living in Buenos Aires), and I always pull out all the stops. So it was with much anticipation that I shopped for the ingredients for this Mu Shu Pork. Unfortunately, the recipe was a huge disappointment. When cooking the pork in Step 6, the pork was too wet and just steamed; not caramelizing at all. Overall this Mu Shu Pork was bland. None of the ingredients brought much flavor; tenderloin, cabbage, bamboo shoot are all very mild. While not bad; it simply lacked flavor to set it apart. Just 3-stars; and not worth the 2 hours of preparation.

Chinese Mu Shu Pork

Chinese Mu Shu Pork


  1. While the pancakes took a full hour to prepare, Chris Kimball warns against using tortillas.
  2. Because this was my first time making this recipe, I didn’t realize that I should have started the prep while making pancakes. It’s best to use that half hour at the end of Step 2 to prepare the meat, cabbage and bamboo shoots.
  3. When first cooking the pork in Step 6, the pork was both too wet and the pans was too crowded. The pork steamed instead of browning; even after cooking for longer than the 2 minute maximum called for in the recipe.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4 PM. Finish time: 6:10 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated link to the original recipe is here. The recipe as I prepared it today is given below:

Pancakes Ingredients (1 hour):
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (7-1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

  1. Put a small pot with about 1 cup of water over high burner and bring to a boil (you will late measure out 3/4 cup of water).
  2. To make the pancakes, weight flour in a medium bowl, add boiling water and mix using a wooden spoon until forms a rough dough. Allow to cool then empty onto a lightly floured counter and knead for about 4 minutes until the ball is tacky, but no longer sticky. The dough does not need to be completely smooth. Use plastic wrap to loosely cover and allow to sit for 30 minutes. (Meanwhile you can to the prep work under Stir Fry, Step 2).
  3. Lightly flour your surface and use your hands to roll out dough into 12″ log. Cut into 12 equal-sized pieces. Arrange so that the cut side is up and pat into 3″ disks. Brush one side of 6 disks with toasted sesame oil, and set one of the un-oiled disks on-top of the oiled-side. Lightly press down to form 6 pairs. Lightly flour the counter and use a rolling-pin to form 7″ disks.
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil to 12″ non-stick skillet. Set over medium burner and pre-heat until the oil is shimmering. Wipe out with a paper towel, and cook one pancake at a time without moving for 40 to 60 seconds per side; until air pocket begins to form between the two layers and a few light brown spots appear of the second side. Remove pancake from skillet and allow to cool on a plate until cool enough to handle, then peel the two pancakes apart. Stack pancakes with the moist-side-upward and loosely cover using plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining pancakes.
  5. If you are going to use them today, cover pancakes tightly with aluminum foil to keep them warm. If you are using them another day, you should wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and then with aluminum foil. They can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 2 months. You should thaw the wrapped pancakes at room temperature, when unwrap and set on a plate. Cover with a second, inverted plate and microwave for 60 to 90 seconds until warm and soft.

Stir-Fry Ingredients:
1-oz dried shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
12-oz pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
6 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin on bias
8-oz can bamboo shoots, rinsed and sliced into matchsticks
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

  1.  Rinse the shittake mushrooms, and put into a small bowl (or two cup Pyrex measuring cup); cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 1 minutes until steaming. Allow to soften for 5 minutes, before draining through a fine-mesh strainer, reserving 1/3 cup of the liquid. Trim away and discard the stems, and slice the caps thinly.
  2. Meanwhile, trim away the silver-skin from the tenderloin and slice in half horizontally. Slice each half thinly against the grain of the meat. Thinly slice your scallions, keeping the white and green parts separate. Rinse your bamboo shoots under the tap, the slice them into match sticks. Thinly slice 3 cups of cabbage.
  3. In a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the thinly sliced pork and toss together until evenly combined.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the 1/3 cup mushroom liquid, 2 more tablespoons soy sauce, 1 more tablespoon sherry, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch; setting aside.
  5. Wipe out skillet from pancakes with paper towel. Set over medium-high burner and pre-heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Beat together the two eggs, and quickly scramble for 15 seconds until set (but not until dry). Empty eggs to serving bowl and use a fork to break into 1/4″-to-1/2″ pieces.
  6. Put the skillet back over medium-high burner and pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it begins to shimmer. Saute scallion whites for 1 to 1-2/12 minutes until evenly browned. Add the pork mixture and spread into an even layer. Allow to cook without moving for 1 to 2 minutes until well browned. Site and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until all the pork is opaque. Empty into serving bowl with eggs.
  7. Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Whisk mushroom liquid mixture to recombine. Add mushrooms and bamboo shoots to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 1 minute. Add cabbage, all but 2 tablespoons scallion greens, and mushroom liquid mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has evaporated and cabbage is wilted but retains some crunch, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pork and eggs and stir to combine. Transfer to platter and top with scallion greens.
  8. Spread about 1/2 teaspoon hoisin in center of each warm pancake. Spoon stir-fry over hoisin and serve.


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