No está Mal para una Cena de Jueves – “Not Bad” -Cinco de Mayo Edición

Cinco de Mayo is one of those gratuitous holidays, and I use the term holiday very loosely.  It is the celebration of the Mexican army’s defeat of the French over something.  Here’s an article if you want the nitty gritty details…, the misconception is that it’s Mexican Independence day and misstating that gets some people’s panties in a wad, but I digress.

It’s a great reason to fire up the grill, drink some margaritas and enjoy the awesome weather, Latin style!

I posted over on’s website the other day when he was having one of his giveaways and I won a cool Latin Dance CD.  So to get this party started I threw that bad boy in the Disco Player and jammed.  (Thanks again Joe, this music is way fun!)

My lovely bride found a killer recipe for tacos in Food & Wine magazine, there were actually 5 recipes in this article but here’s the one I chose.

Skirt Steak Tacos: recipe from Food&

2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 5-inch strips
12 corn tortillas, warmed

Exited to get this marinade right, I stopped off at the local market, Oliver’s Cotati for the missing ingredients.  I picked up some skirt steak (which was on manager’s special, score!), missing spices from my cabinet, Ancho Chile Powder and ground coriander.  I also picked up some fresh veggies to make a fun succotash that I saw made on a food TV show.

I came home at lunch to get the marinade ready.  I placed the meat into a large (1 gallon) zip-lock and started dumping in the spices.  Wow!  I marinated about 3lbs of steak so I used about double what the recipe above called for.  It looked awesome so much chile powder in there…  Anyhow, once you get all the dry ingredients in I took about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and drizzled it in (recipe called for vegetable, I figure olives are vegetables right?) then I squeezed the juice out of 3 limes, then close up the bag and shake and roll and massage the spices around to ensure an even coating of spices and juice.  I put it into the fridge and headed back to work.  Total marinade time probably ended up closer to 6 hours.

Marinated Carne Asada

Grill the meat over high heat, char on both sides and remove from heat.

Let stand 10 Minutes

Let stand about 10 min, should make for a medium-rare Carne Asada.

Carne Asada Supremo

The side dish:

I can’t remember what show it was, but I was at the gym the other day and now all of the workout equipment has private TVs.  So the guys were doing a cinco-de-mayo thing, I couldn’t hear them (i was rocking out on my iPod) but had it on closed caption.  They cooked up this mix of corn and zucchini with some other stuff and simmered it in some cream.  I didn’t get the recipe exact but here’s what’s in it.

2 Ears of Corn (fresh sweet or white)
3 medium-small zucchini
1 Pasilla pepper
1/2 yellow onion
1 large tomato
1 teaspoon Ancho Chile powder
1/2 cup Cream
dash of Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon olive oil (EVOO)

Shuck and rinse the corn, cut the kernels from the cob and place in a large skillet.

Corn off the cob

Core the pasilla, removing the top and seeds, dice into about 1/2 inch bits, put those in the pan.

–Mambo Wine, and Margarita are mandatory–

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, these we will start cooking on the grill.


I cooked mine, flesh side down for about 5-10 minutes over low heat on the gas grill, just so they get the little cooked lines in them, remove from grill then chop into bite size pieces, place those into the pan too.  Finely dice 1/2 of a yellow or white onion, into the pan it goes.  Dice up the tomato, set aside.

Drizzle the oil over the veggies and fire up the burner at medium heat.  Stir frequently to keep veggies from browning too much.  Once the veggies are close to ready pour cream into pan, reduce heat, add tomatoes.

Cooking up the veg.

Let this simmer a little to reduce down the cream.

Suffering Succotash!

I cooked up some black beans with this meal also,  I chopped up half a jalapeno and some onion and cooked that in with the beans.

I whipped up an avocado salsa to go with this, this was super simple and really yummy.

3 Haas Avocados
1/2 yellow onion
2 Tablespoons Ancho Chile Powder
3 Limes

Put all of these ingredients together in the food processor, fire it up until the mixture is smooth.  Done!

I like my tacos in corn tortillas, but you can use whatever you like!

So the Food & Wine magazine has a wine pairing with each of its taco recipes, I was lucky to find the exact wine they recommended.  Hey Mambo, Sultry California Red Wine.  They friggin’ pegged this pairing.


Hey Mambo is a blend of Petite Syrah, Barbera, Malbec, Zin, and some other stuff I can’t remember.  It was 13.5% ABV and comes across the palate spicy and fruity.  It cost around $10 or $11 bucks and was worth every penny!

I have to say this is the best Carne Asada I have ever made.  I am always bummed out (prior to today) when I try and cook up some skirt steak and expect it to taste like it does at the local taqueria.  This one hits the mark and is perfection on a tortilla!

I got to eat off the “Celebrate” plate because I recently got a promotion at work, yeah me!  No está Mal para una Cena de Jueves!

Special Thanks to Joe Roberts for Providing the soundtrack to the evening, please visit him at he always has excellent wine reviews and information. (Latin Party CD image from


Spring IPA – Home Brew 2

Today is a beautiful day in Sonoma County.  I’ve been waiting to do my second brew and today is just perfect.

I got my new propane burner and have been itching to give it a go.  I had such a great brew from my first kit from The Beverage People but wanted a bigger hop character than their IPA kit delivered.  So I got another kit and got some extra Simcoe hops.  This batch got an extra 1/2 oz of these hops at 3o minutes into the boil.  It will get an extra dose at secondary fermentation in about a week.

Here’s some pics of the endeavor.

I take over the Kitchen when Brewing
Getting the Water Going
Adding the brewers barley "tea"

Boil Bubble, toil and trouble!

Good boil going strong
High Tech Wort Chiller

I love the way brewing beer smells…. Like a fresh loaf of bread in the oven!

Here’s one of the best reasons of brewing outdoors in Spring:

My boy!

Here’s to another great Brew.  Happy Spring All


Update:  Spring IPA – Home Brew 2 is in the bottle!

Assistant Brewmaster Michell filling up a Magnum of IPA. 5/16/2010.

10 Days of bottle conditioning and they should be ready for consumption, I can’t wait!

Mia Giardina

I think I’m going to have to start keeping a log of my garden stuff too.

I’m totally stoked, I am growing some hops this year that I will use in some home brews.  I found a cool place that sells hop rhizomes online

Northwest Hops

I just planted this week, so I’ll have to keep a picture log of these guys.  The real trick is going to be keeping my boy out of them.  I have some green beans that have sprouted and he’s been manhandling them!

Happy Earth Day everyone!

I’ve owned many an orchid.  You buy them and they’re full of flowers and buds, you try and try to care for them and they never bloom again.  I had a major milestone this last week.  An orchid an old co-worker gave to me about 5 years ago finally bloomed this week.  Here’s a great shot of its beautiful bloom.

HOPS UPDATE: 4/26/2010

They had a nice warm weekend and are really starting to take off!

Hops are coming along well.  One of my planters is really going gangbusters, the other two are growing but not too fast, oh well, guess I’m just impatient.

So here it is, the end of June and my hops are flowering and are trained up over 9 feet tall now!

Flowering Hops
Flowering Hops

They’re beautiful!

Spiraling Vine
Spiraling Vine

I can’t wait to use these hops in my harvest brew!

Not bad for a Thursday night dinner 2

BBQ Baby Back Ribs:

Fresh rack from Oliver's Market

Barbecuing baby back ribs is just about the best thing in the world.  I have been trying to perfect my dry rub.  Currently it consists of the following:

Brown Sugar
Garlic Powder
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Chili Powder
Smoked Paprika
Cayenne Pepper
and this time I added some Chipotle

I’d love to hear from any of you on what you use.

So pat these bad boys dry, then load up the rub.  I have it in a shaker and use it generously.  I let them sit with the rub on it for about an hour.  So open up the ribs, pat them dry with some paper towels and load’em up with rib rub.  Massage the rub into the meat (like you love your ribs, oh yeah baby!).  Wrap them back up and put them back in the fridge for about an hour.

I’m sure BBQ purists will have a different opinion on what the best method for queing these is, but I’ve had great success with my Weber grill.  I usually use Kingsford charcoal, but occasionally I’ll splurge for the good stuff.  Real charcoal, not the briquettes, but the burnt mesquite wood.  Whatever you’re comfortable with that you can reasonably control temperature with.  Even using a propane/gas grill is cool, whatever gets you out and grilling!

So about 15 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking fire up your coals in a starter and when they’re glowing and have a layer of white ash on them dump them out so they are piled up on one side so you can do some indirect cooking.

Grilling Babybacks
Ribs on the side

Put the grate back on the grill and let it get nice and hot.  Place your rack (heh, I said rack) directly over the coals bone-side down.  Let them sear for about 3-5 minutes, flip them over to the meat side and do the same.  Be careful because the fat will start dripping and you don’t really want to burn them with the flare-ups.  Once they’re nice and seared (cool looking grill lines) move them to the other side of the grill away from the coals.  Close down the bottom and top vents just a bit to lower the airflow, this will cool the grill down a bit, put the cover on and check them every 10 minutes or so.

Here’s a great option for you.  If you have some smoking chips you can add them at this point.  You can buy bags of hickory or mesquite at any good grocery store, most big box home improvement stores, or a barbecue store.  If you’re really lucky, fresh apple wood, pear, peach, cherry wood is an awesome choice for smoking.  But, I’m not usually that lucky, so I use the chips.  Soak them in warm water for about 30 minutes prior to use.  Anyhow, grab a handful and put them on the hot coals, this will get some good smoke going and really kick your ribs up a notch.

Smoking is optional, you can still kick out some killer baby-backs without it.  So, back to cooking.  Ideally you should cook your ribs over indirect heat for at least an hour and a half, two hours if you can manage to keep the heat on the grill low.


About 15 minutes before you’re ready to pull them off the grill is when you should add the barbecue sauce.  I have been using Sweet Baby Ray’s,  I prefer the spicy kind, but the rest of the fam isn’t super keen on the spice, so I’m usually stuck using the regular (not that there’s anything wrong with it).  Slather it on nice and thick then put the lid back on your grill.  The sauce should start to caramelize a bit and you should have  a sweet yummy layer of smoking hot BBQ sauce.

For dinner Thursday I also picked up some sweet corn on the cob.  I paired the barbeque with 2006 Fetzer Coro Mendocino.  Which is a nice big red blend based on Zinfandel, the perfect match to some sweet, spicy, and sticky ribs.

Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner, 2nd edition.

DinVenture1: It’s what’s for Dinner

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Major Wine Pairing FAIL:

So I did exactly what I set out to do.  I wanted Chicken Piccatta and that’s what I made.  The Piccatta was legit, the wine choice of Riesling to go with it was not.

Saturday afternoon (after laboring over some Organizational Behavior case study) I ventured out into sunny downtown Santa Rosa for a pint (or two) with my buddy at one of the favorite haunts, Third St. Aleworks.  I enjoyed a nice margherita pizza and some IPA.

Afterward, I headed back to the neighborhood and stopped by the newish little wine shop in downtown Cotati ( stopping by).  I popped in and chatted with the saleslady who was “filling in” for the owner, we discussed my thoughts on dinner and Riesling and she said she was more of a Chardonay girl.  Undeterred, I made my selection:

An aside here:  Riesling is an under represented varietal in the store, their focus is definitely on the Reds.

I found a nice 2007 Esterlina Cole Ranch Reisling, and since the register wasn’t working right I got it for a steal at $14.50  (price tag said $17 and saw it at Oliver’s for $20).  Happy with the purchase I was off to Oliver’s for groceries.

I picked up some fresh Rocky’s Roasters boneless/skinless, fresh broccoli, eggs, basil, cappellini and a bottle of Sauv Blanc (we’ll talk more about that in a minute).

Prepping for Dinner:

Ready to get cookin!


All purpose flour
Olive Oil (the extra virgin good stuff!)
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
3 Lemons halved and squeezed (about 1/3 – 1/2 cup depending on your preference)
some lemon zest (easier to zest before you squeeze BTW)
Capers 1/3 cup rinsed and drained
Dry White Wine 1/3 cup
Chicken Stock 1/2 cup

1.  using a meat tenderizer/hammer pound the breasts flat to about 1/4″ thickness.  I put the chicken on a good cutting board, cover with saran wrap and beat the hell out of them.

2. in a large skillet 12″ melt 2 tblspn of butter with 3 tblspn of olive oil over high/medium-high heat until it starts sizzling.

3. in 2 9×9 pans or whatever works for you, beat 2 eggs in on, fill the other with flour and add salt and pepper (you can salt/pepper however you want, but this worked pretty well for me).  Dip chicken breast in egg then dredge in flour mixture, place into hot skillet.

4. Brown chicken on both sides (should cook about 4-5 min on both sides), meanwhile fire up the oven to about 250 to keep chicky hot while you’re doing the sauce.

Grilled Chicken Ready to become piccatta

5. After chicken is done cooking (fully cooked) put on a plate and put in over to keep hot.  Pour lemon juice, wine, chicken stock, 2 more tblspn butter, 2 more tblspn olive oil, and capers stir and scrape up brown bits for more flavor reduce a bit.

6. After sauce starts thickening add chicken back to pan and simmer for another 5-10 min.

7.  Pasta:  I used cappellini which was pretty good, but you can use any I’m sure.  Get this ready (maybe this should be step 4 or something, I ain’t no Chef)

8. Veg:  I had broccoli, but thought about green beans (they didn’t look good at the store so I skipped em)  Asparagus might be yummy with this too.

9.  Okay, dinner should all be pretty much ready at this point.  Put chix on the plate, some pasta and veg next to it.  Pour remaining sauce over pasta and chicken.


Chicken Piccatta con Cappellini e Broccoli

Now, on with the mangia.  The chicken was awesome, perfect lemon flavor, not too overpowering,  just right.  First sip of the Riesling…

D’OH! I don’t know what I was thinking.  I totally blew it.  The Riesling chasing the lemon from the piccatta came across insanely sweet.  I should have known better.  Fortunately, I picked up a great Sauvignon Blanc, Honig Napa Valley.  I used this for cooking (some might think that’s a waste, but why not cook with good wine?).  Anyhow, this paired very well.  The light and crisp grassy notes blended superbly with the lemon and capers.  Fwew!

Anyhow, all-in-all another yummy dinner at the Wing house.


I want some chicken picatta.  So, I’m off to some markets today to go get what I need.  I’ll be updating this post with pictures (maybe some video too).  Tweet me some suggestions for wine, I’m thinking Reisling