Tuesday, June 30, 2015

St. Louis Pork Steaks: Traditional Food + Contemporary Technique

The Recipe: The best of two worlds, traditional St. Louis Pork Steaks + contemporary technique. How to cook pork steaks with smoke on the grill, they turn out tender and juicy.

The Conversation: What are the traditional foods that St. Louis is famous for? Who's heard of gooey butter cake?!

St. Louis Pork Steaks, tender and juicy cooked with smoke on the grill ♥ KitchenParade.com.

My adopted hometown of St. Louis is famous for a few old-time traditional St. Louis foods only found here.

To be sure, St. Louis isn't only about the old-style dishes. We have a thriving, collaborative contemporary food scene. This year, local chef and restaurateur Gerard Craft earned a James Beard "best chef" award! And BBQ? Yeah, man, St. Louis has a budding BBQ scene too! Look out Memphis and Kansas City!

But I digress! Back to those old-time traditional St. Louis food icons!

GOOEY BUTTER CAKE St. Louis' famous gooey butter cake – for short, that's just "gooey butter" to locals – has kinda-sorta spread cross-country but really, it's only here in St. Louis that you'll find it at nearly every family party and not one but two bakery businesses built around just one thing, gooey butter.

TOASTED RAVIOLI Then there's "toasted ravioli" – which isn't actually toasted but breaded and deep-fried – and is usually served with marinara sauce.

PROVEL CHEESE St. Louis even has its own style pizza. It's a thin-crust pizza and is cut in small easy-to-handle squares not tippy wedges. It's topped with a cheese called "provel". Never heard of provel? No surprise, it's a St. Louis thing, a blend of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone cheeses. It's got a low melting point, great for pizza.

Should I mention again that St. Louis is my "adopted" hometown? I love my life here in eastern Missouri at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers but you know how they say that some foods are an "acquired taste"? Well, I'm still waiting to acquire the taste for gooey butter cake (soooo so sweet) and toasted ravioli (just not that interesting) and provel cheese (so processed). Honestly? The pizza itself is growing on me!

PORK STEAKS Until we found this recipe in a local food magazine, pork steaks eluded my taste as well. Usually St. Louis pork steaks swim in a sea of barbecue sauce, soft bites of fatty meat.

In fact, my friend Karen Tedesco of Family Style Food once catered a weekend gathering of mothers and daughters from across the US and Canada in my home. I wanted an "all St. Louis" menu one night and Karen, who's as creative and capable a cook as anyone I know, declined – yes, declined! – to make pork steaks, the logical protein course. I understood, since I didn't really like pork steaks either, at least how they're usually cooked.

Enter this recipe from Grillin' Fools, a St. Louis food blog. Here the pork steaks are cooked over smoke (flavor!) and then imbues smoke into the sauce (still more flavor)!

These St. Louis Pork Steaks? When done right (that means without overcooking the steaks), they turn out tender and juicy and smoky.

These St. Louis Pork Steaks? It was easy to "acquire the taste" with the very first bite! I like to think they're the best of both worlds: traditional St. Louis + contemporary technique.

Now about that gooey butter ...

Step-by-Step Photos of this recipe from St. Louis food blogger Scott Thomas at Grillin' Fools
Grilled & Braised Pork Steaks from St. Louis food blogger John Griffin from Kitchen Riffs
St. Louis Pork Steaks from America's Test Kitchen
St. Louis Pork Steaks from the Barbecue Bible and Steve Raichlen
Copycat Maull's BBQ Sauce from the Barbecue Bible and Steve Raichlen
Quick Grilled Pork Steaks from St. Louis food blogger Kevin Haberberger
How to Cut Pork Steaks from a Boston Butt (Pork Shoulder) from FeastTV, starts at about 16min mark


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
  • 18 ounces favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 ham hock
  • Pork steaks, preferably 1-inch thick or more
  • Favorite BBQ rub
  • Salt & pepper
  • Wood for smoke, preferably cherry, apple, peach, hickory, etc.

DOCTOR IT A few hours (or a day or so) before cooking the pork steaks, simmer the BBQ sauce and ham hocks in a small slow cooker for a few hours, it'll smell great!

SEASON 'EM If you like, cut each steak into two or three smaller steaks, following the natural lines of the meat. While you're in there, cut off the fat along the outer edges, the most obvious stuff. Rub the meat with a good coating of a good rub, salt and pepper.

SMOKE 'EM Set up indirect grilling in a grill, coals and some wood for smoking on one side (the direct-cooking "hot" side), nothing on the other (the indirect-cooking "cold" side). When the coals are hot and the wood is smoking, put the steaks on the cold side and cook at 250F/120C until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160F/70C, about one hour.

CHAR 'EM Move the steaks to the hot side to sear both sides, just a quick outer crust.

COAT 'EM Place about half the warm BBQ sauce in a bowl. Move the steaks back to the cold side and brush generously with sauce.

GRILL 'EM If needed, add wood to the hot side for lots of smoke. Close the lid and grill for 5 minutes. Brush more sauce onto the steaks (no skipping the second application!) and grill for another 5 minutes.

SERVE 'EM Serve these hot from the grill with the remaining warm doctored BBQ sauce on the side.

ALANNA's TIPS What in heck is a pork steak, you ask? It's a pork shoulder (also called a Boston butt for reasons that elude me entirely ...) cut into steaks. Here in St. Louis, the typical cut is 3/4-inch thick, that's what you'll find in the local grocery stores and even Whole Foods. But for this recipe, you'll want to go out of your way to have thicker steaks cut, at least an inch thick, up to an inch and a half. The irony, of course, is that people outside of St. Louis, who'll need a butcher to cut the pork steaks from a pork shoulder/Boston butt, may have an easier time getting the thicker-cut steaks! We allow about six ounces per steak, some of that's fat and bone. If you do use the thinner cut, please know they are easy to overcook and dry out. Yes, we learned this the hard way, the last time we made them. To avoid overcooking the steaks, I'd recommend cooking the steaks only to 140F/60C in the "Smoke 'Em" stage, then let them finish cooking on the grill. We love "doctoring" a good BBQ sauce with a ham hock! A typical bottle of BBQ sauce fits perfectly into a small slow cooker like this one, any bigger, the ham hock won't be submerged. We've used the traditional St. Louis loca BBQ from Maull's, also whatever is in the pantry. To make St. Louis Pork Steaks ahead of time for a party, say, go through the "Smoke 'Em" step and then refrigerate for up to a couple of hours. Just before serving, gently rewarm the steaks on the grill in the "Sear 'Em" step and make sure to use really hot BBQ sauce.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Steak, assumes six-ounce bone-in pork steaks with visible fat removed, assumes use of half the BBQ sauce: 293 Calories; 18g Tot Fat; 7g Sat Fat; 80mg Cholesterol; 263mg Sodium; 6g Carb; 0g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 19g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 7 & WW Points Plus 7.
Adapted from Feast Magazine.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

Pork Steaks, a St. Louis Food Tradition

Pork shoulder aka Boston Butt cut into St. Louis Pork Steaks

Yeah, so pork steaks are cheap, here just $2.18 per pound. No wonder they're popular for parties! You can also pay more, our last batch came from Whole Foods for $4.99 a pound. Was there a difference? Not that I could tell.

Tender juicy bites of St. Louis Pork Steaks cooked with smoke on the grill ♥ KitchenParade.com.

Use this recipe to produce is tender, juicy bites of good pork meat with just the right (small) amount of good barbecue sauce. It's the best of two worlds: traditional St. Louis food + contemporary technique.

More Grilling Inspiration

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Grilled Balsamic Chicken Simple Grilled Salmon Baked Baby Back Ribs
Ten Tips for Better Burgers Easy Beef Kabobs Easy-Easy Marinated Flank Steak

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Smoked Whitefish Spread on Cucumber:
An Easy, Healthy Summer Appetizer

The Recipe: A quick and easy-easy healthy summer appetizer, smoked fish mixed two ways (either with sour cream or cream cheese) and spread on thin slices of cucumber and topped with caviar, capers or fresh herbs.

They're a lesson in the power of "small portion size" – with the sour cream version, it takes three slices to add up to just 44 calories and 1 Weight Watchers PointsPlus. But those very same three slices? They contain almost 6 grams of protein and only 1 gram of carbs. Perfect for summer!

The Conversation: How to throw a Scandinavian Feast to celebrate Midsummer, the longest day of summer. Menu included!

Smoked Whitefish Spread on Cucumber Slices, another easy summer recipe ♥ KitchenParade.com. Low Carb. High Protein. WW1.
Easy Summer Recipes, a special collection of easy-to-memorize and memorable summer recipes @ KitchenParade.com. Less cookin'. More livin'. It's the summer's motto! There's even a theme song!
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So we had a little party on Saturday, gathering friends to celebrate the Summer Solstice – what Scandinavians and my Inner-Finn call Midsummer.

Saturday was St. Louis' first day of sun after many-many days of monsoon-style rain. All of us were happy to be outdoors, even if there was no walking on the lawn (thanks to two to three inches of standing water hidden by four or five inches of unmowable grass); even if, as the night wore on, the frogs blasted us with boombox-worthy fervor; even if the evening became stickier and sticker and buggier and buggier. (Acck, hang the weather. Onto the food report!)

We promised our guests a Scandinavian Feast and, well, we delivered! Our Midsummer menu is below – but think fresh fish (including the ever-so-Scandinavian salmon in three forms) and simple summer salads.

And a dessert buffet!

For weeks, I struggled over the sweet course: my goal, I kept thinking, was a single show-stopper Scandinavian dessert plus a couple of small bites.

But then I consulted with my dear friend Pille of the Estonian food blog Nami Nami. She suggested a dessert buffet.

What was she thinking?! That's a dangerous proposition for someone who loves to bake! My mantra became, "I'll quit when I run out of time or butter, whichever comes first!" (Any guesses how that worked out?)

Our dessert buffet was filled with tiny bites of pastry and fresh fruit, especially lingonberries, strawberries and blueberries with good measures of both chocolate and nuts. Twas such good fun, baking with abandon!

Who else loves showy appetizers? Especially no-fork-necessary small bites that are totally healthy?! The Smoked Whitefish Spread can be made up to two or three days ahead of time, then needs just slap-dash assembly an hour or so before serving.

I made two different versions – one based on sour cream, another based on cream cheese – thinking I'd settle on one. But both were so good, I decided to keep both recipes.

The sour cream version is all about the smoked fish. It would be the better choice if you were going to serve it on its own, say.

The cream cheese version is more familiar, more expected and less about the smoked fish. I didn't think I'd like it so much and at first thought it would be "better" on the cucumber slices.

But really? Both work beautifully, either alone or on cucumber slices or on crackers, in an omelet, and so on.


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 4 hours
Each recipe makes about 3/4 cup
  • 4 ounces smoked whitefish (just the edible flesh)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 2 drops Worcestershire
  • 2 grinds black pepper
  • 4 ounces smoked whitefish (just the edible flesh)
  • 2-1/2 ounces cream cheese (low-fat works great)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon horseradish
  • 2 grinds black pepper
  • Cucumber, sliced thin
  • Salmon roe, optional
  • Small capers, optional

For either recipe, use the back of a fork to break apart with smoked fish, separating and gently mashing the flesh. Don't be tempted to get out a food processor: it will yield a fishy goo. Instead, just work that fork.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours to allow the flavors to meld.

Up to an hour before serving, spread Smoked Whitefish Spread on the cucumber slices, top with a tiny spoonful of roe or a few capers.

The assembled appetizers may be chilled for up to an hour, then serve cold.

ALANNA's TIPS Isn't that red caviar just so-so pretty?! It is but you use so little and a jar is quite pricey. The capers are just as tasty and much less expensive. A few sprigs of fresh herbs would be just as good. I was really tempted to add a little crunch, minced red onion (soaked in cold water for a few minutes to brush off any harshness) or minced celery. Those would be great additions if you were going to use the spread in a sandwich, say.
Per << three >> Cucumber Slices (assumes 1/2 tablespoon Smoked Whitefish Spread made with Sour Cream and 1/2 teaspoon caviar each): 44 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 52mg Cholesterol; 275mg Sodium; 1g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 6g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 1 & WW Points Plus 1.

Per << two >> Cucumber Slices (assumes 1/2 tablespoon Smoked Whitefish Spread made with Cream Cheese and 1/2 teaspoon caviar each): 43 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 39mg Cholesterol; 206mg Sodium; 1g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 1 & WW Points Plus 1.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite quick and easy appetizer recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

A Scandinavian Feast & Midsummer Menu

* recipes coming soon and ** crowd favorites

The Starters

Swedish Knäckebröd & Norwegian Nut-Seed Crackers* **
Danish Edam & Norwegian Gjetos
Swedish Pickled Herring & Housemade Gravlax* (Smoked Salmon)
Chilled Smoked Lobster Claws & Chilled Smoked Scallops
Small Bites:
Potato Bites with Smoked Salmon ** & Smoked Whitefish Spread on Cucumbers (recipe above)**

The Main Course & Salads

Grilled Whole Salmon Wrapped in Banana Leaves with Dill Sauce
Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Tiger Shrimp **
Ned's Sausage Pot with Potatoes & Peppers* **
Finnish Summer Potato Salad **
Zucchini Spiral "Noodle" Salad **
Refrigerator Pickled Beets with Fresh Blueberries **

The Sweets: A Scandinavian Dessert Buffet

Finnish Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake **
Easy-Easy Jam Tart with Lingonberry Preserves **
Mini Finnish Fruit Tarts **
"Nana's Tarts": Mini Shortbread Tarts
with Brown Sugar Lemon Curd & Fresh Mint **
Chocolate Cream Puffs Stuffed with Strawberries & Cream **
Vanilla Brownies with Fresh Strawberries **
Rhubarb Cake **
Swedish Rye Cookies from 101 Cookbooks
Finnish Licorice

Eat Like a Scandinavian: Start with Salmon

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Simple Grilled Salmon Roasted Salmon & Asparagus Smoked Salmon Salad

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