Monthly Archives: July 2013

Grilled Chipotle Flank Steak

Grilled Flank Steak

Here’s the follow-up from the Grilled Stuffed Poblano Pepper post, in which, as you no doubt remember, I was going to make fajitas, but the success of the stuffed poblanos happily changed our dinner plans to this marinated flank steak and the stuffed poblanos. But I will one day get around to making fajitas!

Flank steak is a flavorful cut of steak that’s a little tougher than some cuts, but cooked just right (medium-rare to medium) and cut in thin strips across the grain, is really good. Flank steak is often used in Mexican meals like fajitas, burritos, or just with a side of something like the aforementioned Grilled Stuffed Poblano Peppers.


  • Flank Steak, 1 lb. or so.
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Dos Equis, or any beer, or plain water
  • Juice from 2 Large Limes
  • 1/2- 1 Tsp. Chipotle Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Ground Cumin
  • 4-5 Cloves Diced Garlic


Special Utensils:

  • Just a Grill

Serves 4

Mix all the marinade ingredients and combine in a one-gallon ziplock bag with the flank steak. Let marinade for 4 hours to overnight.

As always, heat up enough charcoal to cover 1/2 of your grill and soak some pieces of your favorite smoking wood, as mentioned in previous posts like Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon. Also, since the steak is marinated, put some foil on the cooler non-coal side to catch the marinade drippings.

When the coals are ready, spread them out on 1/2 the grill and throw on the drained wood chips. Start the steak on the cooler non-coal side. Since flank steak is thin, it won’t take long to get to medium rare/medium– 4-5 minutes on a side on the indirect heat side, and 2 minutes or so on the hot coal side to finish the steak off with a little sear. I don’t bother with a meat thermometer when the steak is this thin, I just go by touch. A good guide to go by is feeling the pad on the palm of your hand under your thumb– if you touch your thumb to your index finger, that’s what rare feels like. Thumb to middle finger is medium-rare. Ring finger- medium/medium well, and thumb to pinky is well-done.

If you decided to make fajitas, grill some vegetables along with the steak– cut a red and green pepper and an onion in half, coat with a little olive oil, sprinkle on a little salt & pepper and throw them on the grill too. Once the peppers and onions are done, cut them into thin strips that can fit in tortillas easily, along with some avocados and maybe diced fresh tomatoes. serve with your favorite salsa and shredded cheese, and maybe even some sour cream if you want to get crazy. As for tortillas– flour is most common but I like corn tortillas. Either will make good wraps for your fajitas. Enjoy!

Grilled Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I felt like grilling something sort of Mexican style last weekend. I had a general idea of marinating and grilling flank steak with some peppers and onions and making fajitas. So I stopped at the grocery store to get a few ingredients– the steak, some corn tortillas… and I noticed some nice-looking poblano peppers that intrigued me. Decided to pick up a few poblanos, not sure what I’d do with them. We already had plenty of red and green peppers to grill for the fajitas, so I decided to stuff the poblanos. Never tried stuffing them before, but I’d heard about stuffed poblano peppers and it sounded good in theory. Well, I put together some stuffing ingredients from what I had around, and the stuffed poblanos turned out fantastic on the grill! Delicious and filling. So good in fact, that we started eating them first and almost forgot about the flank steak, although that turned out great too. Maybe I’ll do a post about the flank steak next week. We decided the stuffed poblanos and the steak would be enough for dinner and figured we’d make fajitas another day.

It’s easy to make this a vegetarian meal if you use water instead of chicken stock to cook the rice and leave out the bacon. Leave out the cheese, and it’s vegan.


  • 4 Poblano Peppers
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, like Basmati
  • 2 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock or Water
  • 6 Strips Cooked, Diced Bacon
  • 1 Small Diced Red Onion
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1/2 Cup of your Favorite Salsa
  • 1/2 Cup of Shredded Cheese– Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, or any combo thereof
  • 1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper


Special Utensils:

  • Just a Grill


Serves 4

Heat the 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock or water to boiling, then add the rice, turn heat down to low, and cover. When the rice is ready in about 20 minutes, mix with the other stuffing ingredients. The same tip I gave for the fried rice recipe applies here– use just a little bit less than 2 cups of liquid to the 1 cup of rice, and it’s also a good idea to undercook the rice just a little. There’s more liquid to be added with the salsa and beans and more cooking to be done on the grill.

Cut the tops off the poblano peppers and carefully cut the two ribs on each side of the seed pod area that holds it to the inside of the pepper, so the seeds can be removed. Fill the empty pepper with the stuffing mix and put the top of the pepper back on, holding it on with two toothpicks.

The same grilling instructions from the Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon post apply here: Get enough charcoal ready for one side of the grill, and soak a handful of your favorite type of wood chips. When the coals are ready, add the wood chips and roast the peppers on the hot side of the grill to get a nice char (but be careful not to burn them), turning at least once to a side. Then move the peppers to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking. The peppers will take about 15 minutes total to cook, so if you’re grilling them with a thin steak like a flank steak, you’ll want to start the peppers first. Enjoy!

Mac and Cheese, Clarkston Union Style

Mac & Cheese

We had some friends over on the 4th of July yesterday, and I barbecued some marinated pork tenderloin. But I’ve been  wanting to try something special for a side dish. There’s a restaurant called the Union Woodshop in Clarkston, Michigan that serves fantastic barbeque. there’s often several hour waits for a table there– even at 5 pm on a weekday. This place rocks. Along with your main choice of pulled pork, ribs or beef brisket you get two sides– and one of the side options is their legendary mac & cheese.

An episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network had Kid Rock taking host Guy Fieri to one of his favorite restaurants, the Clarkston Union, which has the same owners as the Union Woodshop just down the street. That’s where the Clarkston Union mac and cheese was created, and Kid Rock’s favorite, most mackinest mac and cheese, was the featured item in this episode.

I’m planning to have a barbeque later this summer where I want to reproduce the Union Woodshop menu as much as possible–with pulled pork, ribs, and a few sides like collard greens, slow-cooked smoky beans… and the mac and cheese. So our friends who came over were guinea pigs for my first mac and cheese trial effort– and they weren’t disappointed.

I searched online to see if anyone had tried to reproduce the Clarkston Union recipe, and my recipe is a combo of the few I found. I leaned most heavily on this guy’s recipe, so I give him props: Triple D in the ‘D’ Most Macked Mac & Cheese! I changed a few things– I added finely chopped bacon, and I used a little different mix of cheeses than the recipes I found online and in the video of the Kid Rock episode of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. The bacon was just my effort to really knock my mac and cheese out of the park. The reason I used a couple different cheeses was mostly due to availability, but in future mac and cheese experiments I’d like to try out more different types of cheese. One last note– I was a little surprised to see the nutmeg in the recipe list. It seemed like an odd ingredient for mac and cheese. But it really makes a difference– it’s the secret ingredient that really makes it special (other than the massive quantities of cheese and heavy cream). So don’t leave the nutmeg out if you find it to be an odd ingredient like I did at first. It works!

Of course, this doesn’t have to be a side dish- it could easily stand out on its own as a main dish. And our kids, who are 7 and 10 and believe that the stuff that comes out of the box with the neon orange powder is the pinnacle of great mac and cheese making, actually really liked this. That was the best endorsement of all. Not a heart-healthy dish by any means, but once in a while, hey, ya gotta live a little.


1 lb. Box Penne Rigate pasta
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
2 Cups 2% Milk
½ Tsp. Nutmeg
½ Tsp. Salt
½ Tsp. Pepper
4 Tbsp. Butter
4 Tbsp. Flour
3-4 Cloves Garlic, crushed in a garlic press
1 Small to Medium Onion, diced very fine
6 Slices Cooked Bacon, cut into small pieces
2 Cups Shredded Parmesan Cheese
10-12 Slices Sharp White Cheddar Cheese (or Pinconning, that’s what the restaurant uses)
2 cups Shredded Yellow Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Panko (Japanese-Style) Bread Crumbs


Special Utensils:

  • Garlic Press
  • Baking Dish


Serves 4-8, depending on how hungry they are and how much they dig the mac and cheese

Boil the penne pasta until al dente– make sure not to overcook, since it’s going to bake more in the oven. Drain and set aside to cool. I mixed the pasta up with a little olive oil so it wouldn’t stick together.

Onions Bacon Butter

Getting started with the onions, bacon, garlic and butter

Add the chopped onions, crushed garlic, bacon and butter to a pan and cook on medium heat until the onions are turning translucent. TIP: if you don’t like to do a lot of chopping, you could run the onions, garlic and bacon in a food processor to get them diced up nice and small. Just don’t go too overboard and puree everything.


Getting there…

Now add the flour a little at a time while constantly stirring, to make a roux. Who woulda thought that good old-fashioned down-home mac and cheese has origins in fine French Cuisine? Keep stirring until the roux is the color of peanut butter.

Milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper warming up in its own pan

Milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper warming up in its own pan

While the roux is cooking, add two cups milk and one cup of the cream to a separate pot with the nutmeg, salt and pepper, and heat on low to medium heat, stirring regularly, until warm.

Adding the cheese...

Adding the cheese…

When the roux is ready, add the warm milk/cream mixture to the pan and mix thoroughly. Stir until the mixture just starts to simmer and thickens up. Add the two cups of shredded parmesan a little at a time. I was a little low on parm, so I made two cups worth with 2/3 parm and 1/3 shredded sharp cheddar.

Let the roux/milk/cream/cheese mix cool. Since this mix and the pasta need to cool down, this is good to make ahead of time so it’s quicker to put together and throw in the oven just before dinner.

Next, mix the roux/milk/cream/cheese mix with the pasta. The milk/cheese mix will be very thick at this point after cooling, so the best way to mix with the pasta is with your hands. Add some of the remaining cup of heavy cream to help thin the milk/cheese mix a little and help get everything mixed together.

Almost ready for the oven...just have to add the panko crumbs

Almost ready for the oven…just have to add the panko crumbs

Now add the first half of the pasta/cheese mix in a baking dish. I used a porcelain dish that was approximately 8″ x 10″ x 3″ deep, and the amount of this recipe just happened to fit perfectly. After the first layer is in, add the slices of extra-sharp cheddar on top (the Clarkston Union video showed the chef using slices of Pinconning, so you can use that if you can find it). Then layer the rest of the pasta/cheese mix on top, cover with shredded yellow cheddar (once again, the restaurant used shredded white cheddar here), and finally a layer of panko crumbs on top.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes (the chef on the DDD episode recommended 425 at 12 minutes, but he was cooking in a small single-serving size dish. I found that after 20 minutes the mac wasn’t hot enough in the center). I saw in the postings I found for this recipe, and a few people who posted replies who tried this recipe, that the cooking temp and time specified in the episode did not result in a real nice brown crispy breadcrumb crust for them. That crunchy browned top is important to the recipe; it contrasts nicely with the creamy cheesy underneath. They recommended maybe cooking longer at a slightly lower temp like 400, and then forming the brown crust using your oven’s broiler setting. I had a nice brown crust form at 425 without the need of the broiler, maybe because I left it in a little longer. But if your mac isn’t browned enough on top, try the broiler trick to finish it. Enjoy!