While on vacation in Florida a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to cook several meals with my mom. Cooking with her is always fun and brings back so many memories of my childhood. My love of cooking comes from those childhood experiences. I love hearing the stories my mom tells of how she learned to cook from her mom and grandmothers. Being a dad, I really look forward to teaching my son to cook and enjoying time with him in the kitchen.
Lessons learned cooking at my grandfather’s. Let’s just say the kitchen tools we had available to us were sparse. It was kind of like camping, except we had electricity and a wonderful view that overlooks the inter-coastal waterway. We did have a sharp knife, a cast iron frying pan and an oven… not vast, but they got the job done.
So you are wondering… What did we cook together? We made some of the best steaks I have ever eaten. Perfectly seasoned, cooked to perfections, melt in your mouth steaks. My mouth still waters when I think about them. You might remember the lamb chops I shared with you. We used a variation of that spice rub to season the meat. Why did our steaks turn out so wonderfully? Technique, we seared the steaks in a cast iron pan to lock in flavor. We then placed the steaks in a preheated (oven at 350 degrees) and then actually turned the oven off soon after placing the steaks in. In no time (12 -15 minutes) our steaks were ready. There are many ways to cook steaks, but this is by far the best technique I have found that consistently produces great steaks.
What you will need -
A Cast Iron Pan
1 – 2 lbs Steak Cut Thick – Ribeye or New York Strip (the steaks were so good we made them twice. Once with a ribeye, once with New York Strip. I preferred the ribeye).
2 Tbs canola oil
Pelham Inn Inspired Spice Rub –
1 Tbs Celery Salt
1 Tbs Garlic Powder
1 Tbs Onion Powder
1/2 Tbs Kosher salt
In a bowl combine all of the spices to make the rub. Coat each steak with the spice rub. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. (The secret to these great steaks is the use of a cast iron pan). In a cast iron pan add the canola oil and heat the pan over medium heat. You want your pan to be very hot before you add the steak. Add your steak and cook for 3 – 4 minutes. With a fork pick up one end of the steak to look at the doneness. You want the steak to be caramelized, nice and golden brown. Once caramelized, flip the steak over. After both sides are browned, place the cast iron pan with the steaks into the preheated oven.
Close the oven and after 3 minutes turn off the oven. Leave the steak in the oven for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes the steaks will be cooked to a perfect medium rare. If you like your steak cooked more, you will need to adjust the times.
Chefs Note – I know some people like their steak cooked well done. The problem with a steak cooked well done, is that you cook a lot of the flavor right out of the steak. You don’t need to cook your steak rare, but there is a good happy medium.
Visiting my grandfather last week, I watched him make himself a simple breakfast of hard boiled eggs and pumpernickel toast. The next morning I couldn’t stop thinking about pumpernickel toast and eggs. I thought how perfect would soft boiled eggs be with their oozy yolks on a slice of pumpernickel? I boiled my water for the eggs, dropped my bread in the toaster, pulled some butter out of the fridge. And then I saw the asparagus sitting out on the counter… score! Asparagus dipped in egg yolk is mighty good too. I love that breakfast can be simple, elegant and of course delicious.
For perfectly soft boiled eggs I let the water come to a boil and then placed my eggs into the pot carefully with a spoon. Being extra careful not to break the eggs. I put a timer on for 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Once they were done, I immediately ran them under cold water until they were cool enough for me to peel (and to stop them from further cooking). After peeling the eggs I placed them on top of the pumpernickel toast which I had coated lightly with some butter. I topped the eggs with a pinch of salt, some pepper, a little garlic powder and onion powder. A great combination. For the Asparagus I boiled them for only 60 seconds. I wanted them to be lightly cooked and still snappy or crunchy. My asparagus was rather thin. If your asparagus is thicker you may want to boil it for 90 to 120 seconds. A perfect breakfast while on vacation or any Saturday morning.
Cooking is a great stress reliever for me, but so was this view while I enjoyed my eggs & toast
A few weeks ago I posted about techniques for making great pizza at home. You can see that post by clicking here. Since then one question keeps coming up “What are your favorite pizza toppings?” As I mentioned in my original post, the great thing about pizza is that you can be creative and have fun with lots of different topping combinations. But since you asked, here is a topping combination that I think is out of this world! I have made this for friends on many occasions, and it is always a crowd pleaser. I always hide a slice for myself when it comes out of the oven, because this pizza is gone in a blink.
The trick to this topping combinations greatness, is a mix of both sweet and savory elements.
- Caramelized Onions – Sweetened with a little brown sugar – The way Mom does it!
- Pepperoni – Everyone loves pepperoni
- Sliced Black Olives – There is a love hate relationship here for most people
- Chopped Garlic – Enough said!
The spicyness of the pepperoni, the saltyness of the black olives combined with the sweetness of the caramelized onions… Can you say, party in your mouth! Top that with some garlicy goodness and you have an absolute winning combination in terms of pizza toppings. The video below shows a good demonstration of how I top a pizza. Once you try it, make sure to let me know what you think.
Sweet Caramelized Onions –
1 Medium Yellow Onion sliced
3 Tbs Brown Sugar
1 Tbs Olive Oil
½ tsp Salt
In a frying pan add your oil and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add your sliced onion to the pan. Let the onions cook for 4 – 5 minutes, until they become translucent. Add your salt, this will pull some of the liquid from the onions helping them to continue to cook down. Add the brown sugar and stir, coating all of the onions. Lower the heat from medium to low and be careful not to burn the onions at this point. Continue to cook the onions for about 7 – 10 more minutes over low heat. Watch them closely and continue to stir them every few minutes. You want the onions to be completely cooked down (See the picture below). Remove the pan from the heat and let them cool to a temperature that will allow you to handle them without burning yourself while placing them on your pizza.
Our food adventure in Southern Florida continues. Yesterday Kate and I were able to sneak out during Greg’s nap time. Thank you Grammy and Papa! We hopped in the car and headed south. For two hours we were free! It was like our pre-children days. It felt like we were moving at the speed of light. No child to strap into a car seat, wow. When traveling with kids, nothing is fast.
For lunch, Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies was in our sights. During our research leading up to our Florida trip we stumbled upon Sonny’s while looking at a Dinners, Drive-ins and Dives fan page, where they list all of the locations Guy Fieri has visited. Kate and I both love steak sandwiches, Sonny’s makes their own bread, and the reviews seemed to be pretty good – They made the list. We’ve visited several restaurants after seeing them featured on the Food Network. After watching Bobby Flay challenge Flip Happy Crepes and Los Barrios to Thowdown’s we had to try them. Both were very good, with Flip Happy Crepes being exceptional. (See Flip Happy Post here). We once tried a taco joint that Bon Appetit claimed made the best taco’s in America… We were not impressed. Kate’s family is from Philly, so we know a good cheesesteak when we taste one. So how did Sonny’s stack up?
When we arrived Sonny’s was busy (usually a sign of a good place to eat), but we were able to get a table quickly. We ordered two sandwiches to split. The 90 – steak and onions, which we added american cheese to and a meatball parmesan, served with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese (which we substituted for provolone cheese).
The steak and cheese hoagie, was by far the best I have had outside of Philly. The bread was great, made daily at Sonny’s, it was the perfect foundation. Chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside. The steak was juicy, the texture was perfect and the sweet onions rounded it out nicely… It was darn good.
The meatball parmesan was an authentic Italian meatball sandwich. The meatballs were flavorful and tender. The marinara sauce perfectly tangy and smooth. The meatball parmesan was very good, but the steak and cheese made me want to do back flips in the parking lot. The service was fast and friendly. John, Sonny’s son got a kick out us traveling all the way from Houston to try his steak sandwiches.
Guy Fieri – You got Sonny’s right! A taste of Philly in Southern Florida.
A Cheesesteak with Wiz – A Philly Classic (Ordered by the lovely lady at the next table).