Grilled chicken, Chef Mike and a European Grill

After venison steaks on Sunday and venison sausage on Monday, grilled chicken was up tonight. We tend to have a protein rotation of venison, chicken and salmon, the latter two I like to cook on a raclette grill. Before I regale you with the wonders of raclette grilling, I want to introduce you to Chef Mike. Chef Mike makes really outstanding food in homes, restaurants and just about anywhere you can find a plug. Chef Mike, a.k.a., the microwave, is perfect for baked potatoes. For tonight’s dinner, there were only two cooking appliances: Chef Mike and the raclette grill.

Baked potatoes by Chef Mike
Baked potatoes by Chef Mike

On the menu: baked potatoes (courtesy of Chef Mike) with tzatziki sauce (courtesy of a herb mix), and grilled asparagus, squash, chicken and cheese. The cheese was melted in raclette pans, which are nonstick and easily slide under the griddle for light broiling. The beauty of the raclette grill is that the nonstick griddle top conveys the right amount of heat to cook the food without burning it. So, I was able to walk out into the backyard a couple of times to chat with my boyfriend. Raclette grills harken back to a European sensibility of gathering people around a table with wine and cheese, meats and bread, and veggies. Everyone places what they want to eat on the grill and the raclette cheese (a type of Swiss) is melted to go with the all the other ingredients.

raclette grill
Queso blanco melted in the raclette pan

We’ve adopted the raclette as an easy alternative to firing up the oven and getting a bunch of pots and pans dirty. Instead, I turn on the electric grill atop the kitchen counter, spritz on some olive oil spray and get grilling. Veggie slices, asparagus spears and meat. For meat, you want to use thinly sliced or pounded out cutlets. Fish cooks just fine. Shrimp cooks perfectly. I like that I can place food on the nonstick grill and walk away to get something or do something. When I cook with pots and pans, I feel I am more committed to hovering over the stove, lest something burns. Even on a low simmer, I have burned food, such a rice. That’s probably why I love that electric, nonstick rice cooker. Seriously, I absolutely love cooking and enjoy using various methods and gadgets. When I first heard of the raclette grill, I immediately thought of Korean barbeque. Funny thing is I have yet to try making Korean BBQ on the raclette. For that, we use our Lodge Hibachi grill outside.

Chicken grilling on the raclette
Chicken grilling on the raclette

The raclette is great for simple, everyday grilling inside. It also provides the best way ever to melt cheese. It melts evenly in the raclette pan and slides out onto your plate. Tonight, I used a queso blanco with green chiles. The cheese paired perfectly with the asparagus. After dinner, I rinsed and wiped the grill top with a soapy sponge. Rinsed again and placed it in the dish rack. Chef Mike gave me a knowing nod and we were done.

The Sage Leopard


Find Your Holiday Balancing Act with Take-It-Easy Meals

Christmas 2015 is in the books. Yet, there is still New Year’s and any additional Christmas gatherings you may have in the interim. We still have another family gathering for a special dinner tomorrow night. As I write, I am fending off an inclination to walk back over to the cookies and chocolates beckoning from the countertop. This time of year requires balance in our cooking and I find that eating simple outside of entertaining keeps me feeling centered. Here are a couple of recent dinners fixed between the more extravagant meals eaten around the holidays. (I cannot believe how creamy an over-the-top oyster mushrooms pasta dish was at a restaurant the other night. Geesh.) We had pork chops with grilled green tomatoes,

spinach atop garlic and olive oil before being covered to cook

and another night we had grilled salmon with baked potatoes. The grilled green tomatoes are a new favorite. Cooking sliced green tomatoes on an indoor grill really brings their flavor to life, especially in the winter. Another go-to dish to bring everything together is sautéed spinach. Start per usual for sautéed veggies by cooking sliced garlic in olive oil on low. Once the garlic is gold, add spinach (straight from a bag) and a pinch of salt, then cover. About 5-7 minutes later, you should have soft, garlic-y spinach ready to plate. The salmon was in a special weeknight display at the grocery store, which served as a reminder to try to eat a little healthy at this time of year. Granted, it was served with twice-baked potatoes. The cheesy potatoes may just offset the healthiness of the salmon, but that’s OK. That’s kind of the point of the salmon. For the potatoes, I first baked them an hour at 375 degrees.

baked potatoes dressed with paprika and spinach

Then I scooped out the middles and placed that potato meat in a bowl with grated parmesan cheese, a dollop of sour cream and spices. I spread that mixture back into the potato shells and broiled them until the tops took on a nice crust.


don't forget salad
don’t forget salad

To further ensure you are getting enough vegetables, make a simple salad. Romaine, bell pepper, tomatoes and green onions are easy to gather, chop and toss with any dressing you like, and complement any number of meats or fish.