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Bison Chorizo Proppers
 

Is it still a popper if the jalapeño is sliced in half? Maybe not, but it sure makes them a lot easier to prepare − and to eat. The distinctive flavor of the chorizo and the heat of the chile are mellowed by the melted queso.

Servings: 12
Course: Appetizers

Ingredients:

3 uncooked bison chorizo sausage links (this recipe also works well with pork chorizo)

3 green onions, thinly-sliced, white and light green parts only

6 ounces Chihuahua cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

12 to 16 jalapeño chiles, cut lengthwise and seeded

2 tablespoons grated Cotija cheese

Lime wedges

 

Heavy aluminized steel sheet pan or other grill-safe pan

 

Instructions:

Preheat a grill for indirect cooking with a hood temperature reading of 500ºF.

Remove and discard the casings from the chorizo. Break apart and cook in a skillet over medium heat until done.

Mix together the chorizo, onions, Chihuahua cheese and egg in a bowl. Fill the jalapeño halves with the mixture. (I suggest wearing gloves when working with the jalapeño — cradling the chile in one hand and filling it one spoonful at a time with the opposite hand.)

Arrange the assembled poppers cut-side up, in a single layer on a grill-safe baking sheet, and sprinkle the Cotija over the top. Roast in the indirect zone of the grill with the hood closed until the cheese is melted and nicely browned, about 20 minutes. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze on top as desired.

 

ELK Skirt Steak Tacos with Tormatillo Avocado Sauce
 

Elk skirt steak is my new favorite meat (for right now anyway). The cuts are very thin, quite lean, and grill almost instantly. The rich and moderately-gamey flavor is a perfect base for the acidic character of the tomatillo sauce and the kick of Serrano chiles. These big game tacos are a perfect tailgating or Super Bowl-watching food.

Serves: 6
Course: Entrees

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

4 tomatillos, shucked, stemmed and quartered

1 avocado, skinned, pitted and quartered

1 handful fresh cilantro leaves

2 cloves garlic, quartered

1 or 2 (depending on desired heat) Serrano chiles, stemmed (you can seed them as well if you wish to further reduce the heat)

Freshly-squeezed juice of 1/2 lime

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

 

For the tacos:

4 red onions, sliced 1/2 inch thick

Extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

6 elk skirt steaks (or beef skirt steak, but cook it to medium rather than medium-well)

3 fresh limes

18 corn tortillas

About 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled

Fresh cilantro

 

Instructions:

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. The sauce can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated in an air-tight container until serving time. The avocado in the sauce will not turn brown because of the acidity of the tomatillos and lime.

Prepare the grill for direct grilling with two temperature zones: one hot and one blazingly hot. A charcoal fire is preferred.

 

Brush the onion slices with olive oil and season with salt.

Squeeze the limes over the skirt steaks. Brush with olive oil and season with salt.

Grill the onion slices in the cooler part of the grill for a few minutes until they are nicely marked by the fire and softened.

 

Grill the elk skirt steaks over the hottest part of the fire. You may wish to grill them 2 or 3 at a time so that you can keep up. Grill the meat to medium-well, about 1 minute per side.

Remove the elk and onions from the grill. While the meat rests, coarsely chop the onions. After the meat has rested for a couple of minutes, cut each skirt into sections about 3 inches long, then very thinly slice the meat across the grain.

To assemble each taco, lay a little sauce into the tortilla. Add the elk meat and some grilled red onion. Top with queso fresco and fresh cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

Note: you can skewer a few tacos together to keep them from opening up or falling apart.

 

 

 

Whitetail Short Rib Scopes with Roasted Squash and Pablano Cream 

 

Words fail me. This dish is rich, earthy and difficult to describe. The beer-braised whitetail short ribs are succulent and decadent. The roasted butternut squash is sweet and hearty, and the poblano cream sauce provides the perfect complement of smokiness with a touch of heat. Served together in small Mexican masa bowls called sopes, they make a mouth happy.

The recipe may seem a little involved, but you can prepare the sauce, braise the whitetail, and roast the squash a day in advance, leaving very little work for the day of your party.

Serves: 6
Course: Entrees

Ingredients:

For the Poblano Cream Sauce

3 poblano chiles

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cloves garlic, halved

1 large red onion, chopped

2 tomatillos, shucked, stemmed and quartered

3/4 cup 2% milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup Mexican crema

 

For the sopes

About 2 1/2 pounds whitetail short ribs (12 ribs) cut into pairs of ribs (or beef short ribs, but cook them 30 minutes lonfer)

1 dried Pasilla chile, ground in a food processor or coffee grinder

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 to 2 bottles of Mexican beer (I used Victoria)

1 large butternut squash

Extra virgin olive oil

12 prepared sopes

About 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled

Lime wedges for garnish

 

Cast iron Dutch oven

Heavy aluminized steel sheet pan or other grill-safe pan

 

Instructions:

To prepare the sauce, roast the poblanos over the open flame of a cooktop burner or on a grill over high heat for several minutes, until blistered and blackened all round. Place them in a bowl and cover with a plate to steam in their own heat.

While the poblanos are steaming, add the oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and onion. Cook until softened and brown around the edges. Reserve.

Scrape the charred skins off the poblanos. Remove the stems and seeds.

Combine the poblanos, garlic and onion mixture, tomatillos and milk in a blender. Process until smooth.

Melt the butter in the skillet and whisk in the flour. Whisk constantly until lightly browned. Pour the contents of the blender into the skillet and add the crema.

Whisk slowly until bubbling. Remove from heat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Reheat before serving.

 

To prepare the sopes, set up the grill for indirect cooking at 300ºF.

Season the ribs with the dried Pasilla chile and salt (reseve any leftover chile). Place the Dutch oven on a cooktop over medium-high heat to preheat. Add the canola oil and wait for it to shimmer. Brown the short rib pieces on as many sides as possible, working in small batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Stand all the pieces on edge and pour in the beer until it comes halfway up the pieces. Throw in any remaining chile. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the indirect zone of the grill. Cook with the hood closed for 3 hours Once the short ribs have begun braising, cut the butternut squash into small pieces, discarding the seeds and the shell. Toss the squash in olive oil to coat. Spread into a single layer on a heavy, grill-safe baking sheet and season generously with salt. Place the baking sheet in the indirect zone of the grill for the final 2 hours of braising time. Roast until the squash is browned at the edges and soft. You may wish to turn the pieces over and move them around a couple of times during the 2 hours, but keep the hood closed as much as possible.
 

At this point, you can put everything on hold until the next day. If desired, refrigerate the short ribs in the covered Dutch oven. Let the squash cool before transferring to an air-tight container and refrigerating.

When it is time to continue, gently warm the squash and reheat the sauce.

Heat the sopes according to the package instructions.

Remove the short ribs from the Dutch oven and grill directly over a hot fire to crisp up the outside (and to reheat, if applicable).

Remove the bones from the short ribs and tear the meat into small pieces. Top each sope with whitetail and roasted squash. Spoon on some poblano cream sauce and sprinkle with queso fresco.  Serve with lime wedges. Enjoy!

 


Roasted Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate and Fresh Savory
 

A simple pomegranate wine reduction elevates succulent lamb by adding the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness to the richly flavored meat. Fresh savory rounds out the dish with its peppery and herbaceous qualities while creating a festive color combination with the bright pomegranate seeds.

 

Servings: 6
Course: Entrees

Ingredients:

Seeds from 1 pomegranate (extract these before you start cooking)

3 racks of lamb, Frenched and trimmed, about 3 pounds total

Extra virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Freshly grated lemon zest from 2 lemons

1/2 cup pomegranate juice concentrate (see note at end)

1/2 cup red Malbec wine

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh savory leaves (use only the small leaves)

 

Instructions:

Lightly brush the lamb on all sides with olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper everywhere but the two ends. Rub on the lemon zest everywhere except the membrane over the bones and the two ends. Cover the exposed bones with foil to keep them from burning. Let the lamb rest for 20 to 30 minutes while you prepare the grill and start the sauce.

 

Prepare the grill for indirect grilling at 500ºF.

Combine the pomegranate juice and red wine in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce, whisking frequently, to a volume of 1/4 cup. Depending upon your cookware and your cooktop, this will require 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

 

Place the lamb in the indirect cooking zone with the bones facing down and pointed away from the heat. Close the hood and roast until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 135ºF (be sure to test the temperature away from the bone for an accurate reading). This should only take about 20 minutes. Transfer the racks to a carving board and let rest.

 

Return the pomegranate wine reduction to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in the sugar and butter until completely dissolved and combined. Be careful not to overheat the sauce, or it will turn into a caramel.

Slice the lamb into single chops and plate with sauce, savory and pomegranate seeds.

Note: Utilizing pomegranate juice concentrate cuts down on the time needed to make the sauce. The concentrate can be found in bottles alongside other pomegranate juice options in most fine markets. I use Knudsen’s, but any other concentrate that is 100% pomegranate juice and instructs a 3 to 1 water ratio should work fine. To use fresh pomegranate juice instead of concentrate, triple the amount of juice called for and plan for more time to reduce the liquid to the same volume.

 

 

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

 

I recently had the pleasure of dining at “The Tipsy Pig” in San Francisco. Their Caramelized Brussels Sprouts appetizer was a real stand out. This dish, inspired by the original, makes a great side for a festive meal. My take emphasizes the crispy leaves from the original. Bacon, Romano cheese and Tuscan bread make it a hearty dish with a “gravitas” that is appropriate for the seaso

Servings: 6
Course: Sides

 

Ingredients:

2 pounds small Brussels sprouts, rinsed and dried

1/2 pound bacon, cooked crisp and chopped coarse, drippings reserved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt

1 generous slice Tuscan bread from a day-old loaf

Freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Heavy aluminized steel sheet pan or other grill-safe pan. (Make sure pan does not have a non-stick coating.)

 

Instructions:

Prepare the grill for indirect grilling at 500ºF.

Remove and discard the base of each sprout. Quarter lengthwise and place in a large bowl. All loose leaves also go into the bowl. These will become the crispiest bits.

Use a fork to whisk together 2 tablespoons bacon fat with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil mixture to the Brussels sprouts and toss to thoroughly combine. Reserve the remaining 2 tablespoons.

Gently tear the bread into very small pieces, compressing it as little as possible, until you have 2 cups worth. Toss with the remaining oil mixture and season lightly with salt.

Spread the sprouts and leaves into a single layer on a heavy-duty aluminized steel sheet pan. Season generously with salt and pepper, and place it in the indirect grilling zone. Roast, tossing the sprouts once, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the edges of the quartered sprouts are thoroughly browned. Mix in the bacon and bread and continue roasting until the bread is crisped and the sprouts are caramelized, about 15 minutes more. Sprinkle on half of the Romano cheese and toss again. Remove from the grill, transfer to a serving bowl and top with the remaining cheese.

 

 

Blistered Tomato Salad

 

The simple ingredients for this salad are brought to life over the fire of the grill. The grape tomatoes, while naturally sweet, become even sweeter from the heat. They are complemented beautifully by briny olives, flavorful cheese, fresh thyme and grilled bread.

Servings: 6
Course: Appetizers

 

Ingredients:

2 pints large grape tomatoes, about 36 tomatoes

Extra virgin olive oil

6 bamboo skewers

3 slices rustic Italian bread

Fine sea salt

About 42 Gaeta olives

4 ounces feta

cheese (I prefer goat’s milk feta), cut into cubes

Fresh thyme leaves picked from 3 to 4 sprigs

 

Instructions:

Prepare the grill for direct grilling over high heat (about 600°F).

Toss the grape tomatoes in a medium bowl with enough olive oil to coat. Skewer them.

Generously brush the bread on both sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt.

Grill the tomatoes, turning once, until soft, blistered and well-marked, about 6 minutes. Remove from the grill and reserve.

Grill the bread until marked and browned. Remove from the grill and cut into cubes.

Assemble on individual salad plates by combining the blistered tomatoes (discard the skewers), grilled bread, olives and cheese. Drizzle a little olive oil onto each salad, sprinkle with thyme leaves and serve.

 

 

Grilled Soft Shell Crabs with Corn and Leek Relish

 

Soft shell crabs are in season in August, and they are great off the grill. The shells become bright red and crispy over the fire. The relish of grilled corn and leeks, with a hint of champagne vinegar, makes a perfect pairing.

Servings: 6
Course: Appetizers

Ingredients:

1 leek

6 soft shell crabs, cleaned

Extra virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt

2 ears corn, shucked

2 cloves garlic (left in the papery skins)

1 serrano chile

1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Lemon wedges for garnish

 

Instructions:

Prepare the grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat (about 450°F). A wood fire is preferred.

Remove the base and the top greens of the leek and discard, reserving the white and light green portion only. Cut in half lengthwise.

Brush the leek and the crabs with olive oil and season with salt.

Place the leek on the grill, cut-side-down, and the garlic alongside it. These go on first because they will take the longest to cook. Turn the garlic occasionally until browned and softened, about 6 minutes. Grill the leek until browned, turning once after about 5 minutes and grilling for 1 to 2 minutes more.

Add the corn and the chile to the grill a couple of minutes after starting the leek and garlic. Turn both occasionally until browned. About 4 minutes.

 

Remove everything from the grill and devote your full attention to grilling the crabs. Place them directly over the fire and grill, turning once, until the shells are crispy and marked and the tops have turned bright red. About 6 minutes total. Remove from the grill.

To make the relish, cut the corn kernels from the cobs, cut up the leek and chop the Serrano. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery skins and into a medium bowl. Add the vinegar and lemon juice plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Whisk together into an emulsion. Add the corn, leek and Serrano to the bowl and toss to combine.

Serve the crabs, whole or quartered, on top of the corn relish.

Spit-roasted Leg of Lamb over Grits and Tomatoes

 
I have been meaning to share a rotisserie recipe, and the time has finally come. I cooked this lamb on the spit with an apple wood fire going in the grill down below, but you can certainly use an infrared rotisserie burner for a more conventional approach.
 

Servings: 6 to 8
Course: Entrees

 

Ingredients:

2 heads garlic, peeled

Leaves picked from 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Zest of 2 lemons

1 teaspoon salt (I used Alder-smoked sea salt)

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon whole coriander

1 boneless leg of lamb, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds

Extra virgin olive oil

2 red onions

2 pints mixed organic cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup vegetable broth

Large cast-iron oven or roasting pan (large enough to sit below the lamb leg and catch the drippings)

1 cup (dry) yellow corn grits

2 cups water

Perforated grilling pan

1 tablespoon butter (optional)

1 tablespoon flour (optional)

 

Instructions:

Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor and process to a medium-fine texture.

If the lamb came from the butcher in an elastic net, remove and discard the net and re-tie with butcher’s twine. Skewer the leg onto the rotisserie rod and secure with forks. Brush the lamb with olive oil, and then coat with the seasoning blend, pressing the seasoning into the meat with your hands. Let the lamb rest and rise to room temperature for about 45 minutes.

Prepare the grill for rotisserie cooking with high heat. You can either use an infrared rotisserie burner or a fire down below in the grill. I prefer a wood fire for lamb.

Cut up the onions into “petals.” Place in the cast iron pan along with the tomatoes, red wine and vegetable broth. Toss to coat.

 

Mount the rotisserie rod into the grill. Place the pan with the tomatoes and onions below the lamb to catch the drippings. Turn on the rotisserie, close the hood, and cook until the lamb is browned on the outside and rare to medium-rare on the inside. Depending on your equipment and setup, this can take 45 to 90 minutes.

Once the lamb has started, get ready to make the grits. Follow the instructions on the packaging for preparing grits from 1 cup of the dry grain. Pre-heat the water now so it can quickly come to a boil when the lamb is done. Wait to cook the grits until the lamb is resting.

 

I prefer my lamb towards rare, so I remove it from the grill when the internal temperature reads 120ºF. Check the temperature after 45 minutes to avoid over-cooking, and make sure you don’t touch the rotisserie rod with the thermometer, or it may throw off the reading. When done, remove the spit from the grill and let the lamb rest while you finish the rest of the dish. It is best to suspend the lamb rather than letting the weight of the rod push the meat into a cutting board.

If you cooked the lamb using a rotisserie burner, turn off that burner and fire up the grill for direct grilling over high heat. Place a perforated grilling pan over the fire. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes and onions to the grilling pan. Whisk the drippings and liquids left behind in the cast iron pan to start a sauce. If you wish to thicken the sauce, start a quick roux in a separate pan using the optional flour and butter. Once the roux is cooked to lighaaa