Recipe Testing Madness

Okay, let me first say, if this isn’t plainly obvious, recipe testing is hard and it sure doesn’t look as gritty on TV as it does in real life. Surprise, right? No, no surprise for me either.

Anyway, I am still working on this sauce with about 3 days to go. Plenty of time right? Maybe I should have started to work on my changes with 4 days to go, because that extra day would have made all the difference. 🙂

For those of you who are waiting patiently for a new post, have no fear! I have a ton of blog ideas that I am working on, but just need more time to develop them — especially with recipe testing at the forefront. Plus, with life and being an adult getting in the way, my time has been limited this week. But I hope that changes soon.

So, stay tuned!

The Perfect Tri-Tip

Tri-tip is a great cut of beef that can offer you an inexpensive alternative to cuts such as rib-eye, new york strips, and other other more pricey cuts of meat. This is honestly one of my go-to cuts of meat that always delivers when you follow these simple steps.

Select your cut. Tri-tip comes in two forms as the whole roast or sliced down into steaks. Both of aforementioned applications have their purposes and honestly, you can’t really go wrong. More often than not I will choose the roast. Why do you ask? The simple answer is forgiveness. You don’t have apologize if you don’t want to. I am talking about the forgiveness of the meat as it cooks. I am going to dive into this shortly, so I don’t want to get too wrapped up in this right now. Oh, if you are looking for a money saving tip, and if you might find yourself using a lot of tri-tip, I would suggest buying the whole roast and either cooking it whole or breaking it down into steaks yourself. Side by side, the cost of you buying a roast and cutting it down or leaving it whole will be so much less than if you buy it shrink wrapped. However, if that is what you have available, it will do just fine. Cutting the roast as steaks is also great because they cook quick and can be marinated, so again, lots of ways to treat this cut of meat to make it flavorful and juicy.

Season your meat. You have heard me regularly remind you in these posts to season and/or adjust your seasoning, and this is no exception. Like with short ribs or steak, you will want to season more aggressively especially for the whole roast. If you are doing steaks, I would recommend reviewing my Party on the Barbie post for seasoning purposes. Okay, now that you know to season heavily with more than you need, what the heck do you season it with? Anything! Yes, the seasoning and spice options are limitless. Here is an example of a good blend of seasonings:

Fresh Ground Pepper
Garlic Powder
Brown Sugar
Onion Powder

Honestly, you put this in a dish in the right amounts and I will eat that straight out of the container. Okay, well, maybe only a couple of teaspoons. 🙂 Don’t forget to check the flavor balance of your seasoning blend. If you think it needs something, you could easily add it if you like. Do you like your mix to be a little spicy? Add a pinch of cayenne or another ground pepper of  your choice.

Believe it or not, we have actually been talking about marinade’s brother from another mother, dry rub. Just like it sounds, we aren’t apply any liquids to bring the seasoning together, we are just going to let seasoning naturally adhere to the exterior of the protein. By the way, this is another reason we want to season heavily because not all of it will stick. In case you are worried you can’t master this great technique, you already have. That’s right, we have already used this method in our Roasty Toasty Bird post.

Sealing the deal with finished internal temperature is the last key to our trifecta. For me, any steak or cut that isn’t a slow cooker application should be medium rare between 130-135 degrees when the meat has rested. I will include pictures so you can see what that looks like. Use your thermometer, Luke. Best suggestion I can make is to go out and by a digital thermometer so you can get an accurate temperature every time. You don’t need to take out a loan to get a good one unless you know you are going to use it enough to spend the extra coin. There are some ways you can check the doneness of your meat without a thermometer if you want. I will say, these methods are pretty accurate, but you will always get consistent results with a thermometer. Let me know if you are interested and we can talk about these other ways to check your meat.

As far as applying heat, I think the grill wins, however, you can do this on the stove top — just make sure your kitchen is well ventilated so you don’t smoke out your house and set off your fire alarm. Believe me, it doesn’t make for a good time I can promise you that.

Alright, your grill should be at medium high heat and make sure to let your grill or pan get hot first. If you are using a pan the oil should be smoking (you’re just looking for a wisp of smoke here, no big black cloud required). Use cast iron or a heavy-bottomed nonstick pan for the best results. Once you put the meat down, leave it alone! Sound familiar? Don’t touch it! This is how you will get that amazing char, color, and caramelization. I would say at least 5 -7 minutes per side to get the delicious crust on the meat.

After you get the initial crust, you just want to apply enough heat to cook the roast through. So, turn the heat down and move it off direct heat if the burner or grill is still too hot — and turn until the meat has consistent color on all sides. Pull your meat off the heat between 120-125 degrees, don’t worry the meat will keep cooking once you remove it from the grill or stove. So you want to give it 10 minutes to rest and let those juices settle back into the meat, and while it rests you will get the final 5-10 degrees you need for that perfect medium rare temperature.

Here is a finished, properly rested tri-tip roast. Once the roast comes out, tent it with foil to help hold in the carry-over heat.

This is cooked to a perfect medium rare.

Same shot, but a little closer. I think this photo speaks for itself!

Recipe Testing-Oh My!

Yes, it’s probably no surprise that I spent most of the day testing and working on this sauce creation. I think I have roasted about 20 bell peppers in the course of 48 hours or so! This is a labor of love, but with a share of head scratching mixed in. I’ve included a couple of photos for you to enjoy while I continue on my quest.


On the left you’ll see the base components of my sauce; and on the right you’ll see one of the two versions of the red pepper sauces I made today.

Are we making progress on this? Yes, I believe we are on the right path. Do we need to work out some kinks and try to make sense of what we have done so far? Once again, yes — yes we must spend some time mastering the mechanics of this sauce until I get it just right. I promise that I will share the recipe when it is fully completed.

Do I have anything else forthcoming? Yes! Upcoming posts will include grilled tri-tip roast, plus a how-to on mangoes and roasted garlic. Curious? I hope so!

Stay tuned for all this and more!

Recipe Test Launch

Today I began recipe testing for a creation that I hope to complete in a little less than 36 hours time. Plenty of time, right? I think so too. Alright, so as you can imagine, having to scrutinize every part of your recipe is both rewarding and a little tough. However, the reward could be significant. Let’s face it, the chance to have a winning recipe is awesome, but being able to add this to my recipe arsenal has big benefit as well. I already know that this recipe will be something I go back to again and again.

I am going to share a few photos, but no recipe as of yet because I am still working out a few, well, issues. Yup, this is a good reminder that mistakes will happen when it comes to food because that is the price we must pay to be amateur foodies. Or, we can heed these very famous words courtesy of Julia Child: “Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.”

8 roasted red bell peppers.

This is the pepper de la resistance.

Here is the first test of the recipe. I posted this photo so you could see what I was working on earlier.

One of the first test photos. Came out well, but what did it lack? Well, a little bit everything as it turned out. It just didn’t have any punch and there are ingredients that I wanted to highlight that weren’t coming through in the flavor of the sauce. It was time to go back to create a second batch of the sauce with some adjustments.

This is sauce number two. Any guesses as to what the problem is here? The flavor was on point this time, but in order to make the adjustments I needed the sauce suffered in the color department. Needless to say, there is work to be done to return the sauce to it’s color of glory.

Tomorrow is a new day, but in the name of flavor, deliciousness, and well, just plain fun — more peppers will face a certain doom.

More updates to come. Stay Tuned!

Taking My Teriyaki Back to you “Babe”

This salmon will knock your socks off! Yup, simple, satisfying, and spectacular salmon. Of all the salmon we have cooked, which we try to have at least once a week, this was one of the best adaptions that we have executed to date. Salmon is rich, has tons of body, and can really take on a lot of seasonings.

This salmon features a light teriyaki glaze with some added twists to make it my own.

I am not ashamed to say that grabbing a bottle of soy or Teriyaki sauce from the store in order to save yourself a little time cooking is something I am all for — that way you can have a little more time to enjoy the important things in life. As I have stated, I am a big proponent for trying to make as much as you can from home but I have nothing against the benefits of what is available in the store. The only downside to using what you can find in the store is that some store bought sauces tend to be overpowering and detract from the flavor you are trying to enhance. The great news is there are very simple, easy, and clever ways to fix that.

This all began at our local fish counter at our favorite store, where we saw all kinds of pre-marinated fish and various quick dinner options, as well as the fresh salmon we usually buy. We eyed our potential purchase warily as we were unsure of a marinating a strong flavored fish that tastes so good on its own. However, we had recently discovered that some of the combinations from a marinated fish or protein (no matter how strange they may sound) delivered great flavor.  These flavor profiles included a variety of options, such as orange Dijon, or lemon and rosemary herb. Sound good, right? You’re right about that — because these marinades and sauces were perfectly paired combos with a number of different fish, including salmon.

Unfortunately if a marinade too strong flavor-wise for the protein you’re working with, it is very easy to lose the flavor entirely as your meal is overwhelmed by the salt, the spice level, or other elements in the marinade.  This can result in the fish or protein being over-saturated with the flavors of the marinade, such as orange and mustard, leaving your unable to enjoy the fish or anything else you might serve with it. That would be a terrible marinade experience!

This post is meant to help you see what you can do to resolve this dilemma. The key is to remember you don’t have to use a huge amount of the strong flavored marinades, and sauces from a jar when working to develop your own Orange Dijon or an Asian inspired fish flavor profile — you’re not required to use only what is in those jars.

So, we found this glaze we liked and because it was something that was used already to marinate various fishes and meat by the meat department, which often helped the store move the last few fillets of fish or a few extra chicken breasts the staff will marinate the items they need to sell in order to make room for something else. The good news is that this marinade and others like it are readily available at the fish counter and meat department for you to sample first before committing to using it on your fish, pork, beef, etc., to see if it would be worth buying rather than spending the money on a jar of sauce that you know you probably won’t like. Also, in a lot of large grocery stores, we frequent Whole Foods and New Seasons, you can buy sample size containers for little to no cost if you ask the grocery clerk what you’re using it for or what you are trying to do.

Now that we had the sauce, it was time to play “Let’s Make a New Glaze.” You can do this a lot of ways, for us, we went with simple additions, including olive oil, dried basil and oregano, a little fresh ground pepper, and lime juice. The oil is a great way to thin your glaze  if it appears to thick. Adding dried herbs can really enhance the flavors of the fish in this case, but dried herbs work in anything! We admittedly love black pepper, not only because nothing beats fresh ground pepper, but it can really help if you are trying to counterbalance salt or richness in any dish. As you can imagine, the lime juice is used for the same reasons, to give the fish a perfect note of citrus undertone and to provide a perfect counterpoint to the salt, balancing these flavors exceptionally well. Again, it will help keep your glaze thinner and easier to apply by using the oil & lime juice into the marinade.

Here is the thinned out glaze with olive oil, pepper, dried basil and oregano, and a little lime juice. In case you are wondering why I didn’t mention salt that is because the teriyaki has plenty of salt already and likely salt won’t be need. If you think you do need more salt, first add only a small amount of salt as it possibly could grow too salty very quickly. Be, sure to taste your glaze before you apply it to the fish, and if the seasonings are too strong or not strong enough, adjust as needed before applying to salmon. Remember, you can always add, but subtracting in this case gets difficult.

Good Evening, This is your Captain, speaking from the Grill Deck.

“We are cruising at about 400 hundred degrees for about 15-20 minutes. As we make our descent, please remember to check your fish as carryover heat will be applied and your fish will continue to cook until its arrival to the plate. We thank you for flying Salmon Airlines, and thank you for letting us serve you at medium rare.

Hope you enjoy this great dish!

Putting the recipe where your mouth is

Okay, tonight is less about an active recipe, but more of a story. Yes, that means tonight Patrick’s Table Fare becomes Patrick’s Table Story Hour. Good news, this story won’t be actually be an hour, but you get the idea.

Alright, so last week one of my bosses came to me and said, “Hey, there is a recipe contest with a local restaurant group that maybe you should think about entering.”  Of course my interest was immediately piqued, but my initial thought was where was I going to come up with an unique enough spin that I could garner some attention. I thought my chance was quickly dashed when I realized a bulk of the recipes I do only have minor changes, but may not provide enough complexity to make the dish my own. So, it was no surprise when I started talking myself out of the possibility that I could even create something that would work.

Oh, what would I get out of this if the recipe won? The winning recipe is featured for 6 weeks on the menus of a local restaurant group in all their restaurants. Sweet, right?!

I digress, back to my story. Even though I had decided I couldn’t come up with anything, my brain continued to search and seek through my internal database. Alas, I still couldn’t come with anything that could be identifiably my own. My in house copy editor and I started chewing over some more ideas to make sure I wasn’t limiting myself. We kicked around a few more ideas including the roasted pepper sauce that I make that you can find my Party on the Barbie post, but I knew that wasn’t going to be unique enough. I started to wonder if I could find a way to give that sauce a notable twist that would turn some heads. I suddenly remembered this time where I combined some left over red pepper sauce and some left over homemade pesto in a pinch to stretch both the sauces. As it turned out, the flavor of the pesto and red pepper was different and could be well suited for this application, but the color of the sauce was anything but appealing. So, to keep you reading, I will just describe the color of the sauce as that of pate. See the problem? Now the wheels were turning since I had a flavor profile, but I had to make sure the sauce’s color would be appealing. How could I make this work, I wondered. Then it hit me, maybe I could incorporate fresh basil leaves with the red peppers and follow the same premise of how I make the sauce normally.

Off to the kitchen I went and as luck would have it, I had enough ingredients in the fridge to make a very basic batch of my new creation. What did I discover to my own surprise? The sauce worked. Boom! Just like that, I had my unique twist that I could apply to a dish that is recognizable but would march to the beat of it’s own drum.

Now, the fun part. Now I need to test the sauce until the flavors balance properly, then I can figure out how to bring it all together. Anyone ready to roast some more red peppers? I will post a complete recipe once it is done, but there will be updates coming soon as the deadline is less than two weeks away! Here we go!

The Missing Post-Man

Good evening my faithful readers! There is a post that is in progress, but it is currently marinating and won’t be ready till tomorrow. Until then, don’t forget the salt and pepper! Stay tuned!

Magical Mystery Tour of Marinades

Besides seasoning your food well, one of the best ways to apply flavor is to marinate. The great thing is you can marinate vegetables, fishes, meats, heck, even some fruits. Yes, you can marinate fruits & vegetables — but we will cover both later down the road. Depending on the marinade and how much flavor you either want or have time to achieve, a marinade can flavor meat or other items in as little as 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Since it’s almost summer and for most that is the main grilling season, we will now turn our attention to the humble grilled chicken. One of the biggest problems with chicken is that it can be really bland. Plus, if you season the outside too much and apply too much heat to the chicken you may burn the outside, leaving raw chicken, or it could intensify the seasoning you used — making it too spicy,  too salty or too sweet to enjoy. This is where marinating comes in. You can get some of those same flavors to penetrate deep into flesh of the meat simply by placing it in the marinade for a little while.

What sort of things can you use in a marinade? Truthfully, the options are endless for what you can use. Let me give you a few examples. Don’t use this list as a recipe mind you, but just pick some items that sound good together.

For, Beef, Pork, Chicken:

  • Rosemary  — Just remove the leaves from the stem & place in your plastic bag or bowl for the marinade, lightly crushing the stem to release that essence of flavor from the herb, and toss that into the marinade as well.
  • Salt and Pepper — Always use salt & pepper in a marinade, seasoning according to your tastes.
  • Vinegar — A splash of regular balsamic, apple cider, and champagne vinegar can give some nice notes of acidity and sweetness to a marinade.
  • Crushed Garlic — I recommend just peeling a few cloves, smashing so the flesh starts to open and the oils will release, before tossing the cloves into the marinade. Use as many cloves as suits your tastes or the flavor you’re looking to achieve.
  • Oil — Some types of cooking oils will work well for any marinade, such as olive, canola or grape seed oil.
  • Spices — Anything will work, but I like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs and various spice mixtures depending on the type of meat you may be marinating.

For fish:

  • Cilantro
  • Garlic
  • Dried Herbs (Basil and Oregano)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A splash of wine
  • Oil
  • Citrus — Note: When applying citrus, make sure you use enough to get a little flavor and only marinate for a short period, making sure not to leave your fish in the marinade too long as too much citrus can cook your fish — hello ceviche! We aren’t covering that in this post, but instead we’ll leave that one for another day. I always recommend finishing fish with some kind of citrus for maximum flavor, or if you feel your fish is under-seasoned.

Alright, now that we have covered the basics, lets talk application. Just throw everything in a bag and swish around until the seasonings dissolve in the liquid. If you don’t get it all don’t worry, you will get your chance to combine it all. Throw your protein in the bag with the marinade, seal it, set on a plate, and turn every 15 minutes for a 30-minute marinade or every couple of hours for a lengthier soak, which makes sure every part of the chicken gets covered. Oh, we are using skin on, bone-in chicken breasts, but you can use any of your favorite chicken pieces as well.

You can cook these with any application really, but I suggest the grill or oven. This allows you to make sure you can secure a proper, elegant cook and will help keep the meat moist.

Make sure you check the cooking times for the type of chicken you have selected, as these can vary.
For us, a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast will take about 30 minutes on the grill or in our oven. Remember to pull your chicken off of the heat a little bit early to let it finish cooking without drying out. Properly cooked chicken after resting should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees. I usually pull our chicken off the grill or out of the oven at about 155 – 160 degrees as it will finish during the rest period. Feel free to use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature, or after it has rested go ahead and cut into the chicken and make sure you don’t see any pink and that the juices run clear.

After about 5-7 minutes on the grill your chicken should start to look like this.

You can also serve the breast off the bone if you prefer, which makes for a really nice presentation.

Chicken finished with a nice salad of arugula, green apples, spinach, mushrooms, and homemade balsamic of course.

What The French Toast?!

It is Sunday morning breakfast, and yes, we are talking french toast! True, you can get french toast anywhere, but nothing beats a super easy, rich, and flavorful homemade french toast. I add something that gives this french toast a special twist. Ready, let’s go!

This recipe is meant to serve 2-3 people, so adjust accordingly.


4-6 slices of 1 inch thick bread slices (we usually use about 1/2 of a loaf, but we will talk about bread below)
3 Eggs
1/2 – 3/4 cups of milk
A pinch of salt
2-3 teaspoons of lemon zest

I use a cast iron pan for my french toast, but you can also use a heavy-bottomed nonstick pan, an electric griddle or a griddle pan if you prefer.

Oh, wait, did I say lemon zest? Yes, lemon zest! As we have talked about before lemon zest brings a nice citrus note and a touch of acidity to rich or filling foods. Want a refresher about how we can lemon zest? Check my “Batter Up” blog post. French toast is a rich, sweet dish, which is what you want — and the lemon zest is a nice way to cut through the richness to provide a little relief to your palate. That’s why lemon zest is the way to go.

Next is the important task of selecting the bread that you will lovingly devour when this is finished. First up, try to stay away from pre-sliced packaged bread that is on every corner of of shopping grocery store aisle. The aforementioned sliced bread won’t stand up to taking on our egg custard that we need in order for this recipe and it is a crucial element of a successful fresh toast. Also, a lot of those store breads can bring a funny flavor to the party or you may end up with nut studded french toast, which I will say won’t make, if I may, “good eats.”

Okay, what should you be looking for in your bread based companion? Try a loaf of fresh french bread from your local grocery story or bakery, as well as brioche, challah bread, or sourdough bread will do very well here. We are choosing these fresh bread options for a couple of reasons, unlike many national brand breads you can often find bread options with a lot fewer unnecessary ingredients, you get to slice the bread at the desired thickness level you want to use for your french toast (versus pre-sliced breads), and lastly — the interior layer within these breads will gladly and willing soak up the custardy goodness you are putting forth with your french toast recipe.

Picture time? Yes, I think so!

This is what we ate. Oh, so good!

“My name is Bread, Challah Bread.” We use challah bread for our french toast recipe, and this is what it looks like. Yes, the end is missing because tasting and quality control is so important!!

Eggs and lemon zest getting together.

Captain, we have custard in sight.

The bread is getting its soak on. I would say about 60 seconds or so per side in order for the custard to absorb all the way through.

Here is everything you will need to make this happen all staged and ready to go. Consider this my Model FT assembly line for french toast.

This photo shows the golden brown deliciousness we want to achieve. Cook your bread on the cast iron “griddle” for a few minutes per side on medium heat until you get this color on both sides of the bread. When you first put the bread in the pan make sure your pan is hot or you will end up with soggy, mushy french toast.

I will let this photo sink in……You will never need french toast from an I-Pancake restaurant again.

Success! What a way to start your weekend day! 🙂

Dressing Dilemma

A couple of months ago while I was the store, I began the tedious hunt for my favorite salad dressing, balsamic vinaigrette. Looking for a vinaigrette went about as well as winning the lottery has gone for me. Yeah, that explains it all, right? I look down the aisle and all I can see are bottles with faces of roman characters, labels where all the money goes to charity, celebrity chef’s dressings, and a simple label for a store off-brand dressing.

Yet, most of these bottles had one common problem, the number of ingredients doesn’t make sense! One variety had 17 ingredients in it! Are you kidding? I thought to myself. I scowled at the Roman God on my way out of the aisle, checked out, and set out to make a dressing that would cost less than and rival any store bought bottle, and would be assuredly better for me than 11 extra ingredients I didn’t need. I am happy to say that I won’t ever need to buy balsamic dressing from the store any time soon.

How do you make this delicious concoction?  Follow this recipe:

  • 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾-1 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


Add all ingredients above to the blender as well as 1/4 cup of the olive oil, reserving 1/2 – 3/4 of the olive oil. I have a Vitamix blender, but use what you have at hand. Once you’ve incorporated the first 1/4 of olive oil and the other ingredients, begin slowly drizzling the remaining olive oil into the blender until all the ingredients are emulsified.

Don’t have a blender? No problem! You can do this by hand pretty easily but it can take a bit longer for all the ingredients to emulsify. Just add all the ingredients, but slowly drizzle the oil in a small steady stream and whisk until it starts to come together. The visual cues will be clear, when the dressing begins to come together the color will begin to change as you whisk, and lastly, you will notice that the mixture thickens.

I included the visual cues because so often recipes don’t do an adequate job describing what it should look like, smell like, feel like, and so on. That is one thing in lots of recipes that drives me crazy.

Okay, time for a couple of photos.

Here is the finished balsamic in a mason jar. Just put a lid on it and it can hang out on the counter and be perfectly stable.

Here is another look at the mason jar from a different angle. This yields around a cup and a half of dressing.

Make sure you taste this because sometimes you need to adjust the seasoning. Try using a piece of lettuce dipped in the dressing to check the level of seasoning, or a piece of bread will do nicely. Sometimes I add a splash of lime juice for a fruity undertone. Remember, if the balsamic seems super strong you can thin it with a little more olive oil, or vice-versa if you aren’t getting that balsamic note. As with most of my recipes, adjust accordingly.

Looking for a new twist for how to use this vinaigrette?  Try making a baked potato with a little sour cream, and finish with a drizzle of vinaigrette and some salt and pepper. Truthfully this is one of my favorite ways to use the balsamic. You could also use this for a slaw if you aren’t a fan of mayo based dressings or just a regular potato salad. Again, you can use this for anything.