Category Archives: Grilling

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeChef David Pan was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota – one of my favorite towns in the world! After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Mendota Heights, he began his career at WA Frost in St. Paul with Chef Russell Kline. WA Frost, one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities, is a leading culinary institution in the Midwest, winning multiple awards, including the “AAA” Tour book 3 Diamond Rating – they also have a great outdoor patio, FYI. Pan noted, when I expressed my joy at eating at Frost, that it was a great place to start! He said, “they have a great culinary vibe – everyone is there because they love to cook. There are hard core line cooks!”

He then moved on to the prestigious Minneapolis Club, one of the last invitation only clubs in the US, and his culinary skills were put to test cooking for the elite clientele. Pan spent his summers in Gustavus, Alaska working at The Gustavus Inn, a 2010 James Beard America’s Classics Award Winner. There, he worked side by side with the chef – being a prep cook, gardening, washing dishes, driving a van, and learning how to do just about everything! Pan remarked, “It was the first time I’d been outside of my comfort zone – getting fish straight from the ocean, growing vegetables in a very short summer. It was eye-opening to work with vegetables straight out of the ground, and learn the difference between something processed. I now have a great appreciation for fresh veg – from seed to harvest. When I think of the fresh (and small!) strawberries there, they were so potent and delicious. It changes how you think of foods.”

Pan moved to the Gulf Coast in 2013, and had the honor of working for Chef Bill Briand of Fishers Orange Beach as well as working for Eric Beech of Brick and Spoon. He worked very long days for 14 months, and then made a big life decision. In 2015, he and his wife launched Orange Beach Concierge, one of the only private dining services in the Orange Beach area. He said that there is a big fear to step out on your own, and lose the stability of a full-time job.

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeHowever, he’s doing many private events, and loving it. From private chef work to themed weddings (a recent Greek-themed wedding saw him making gyros meat from scratch, as well as kebabs, hummus, tabbouli, and every kind of traditional Greek food – and they loved it) and smaller events. When he described his menus, well, I started thinking about a trip down south. He’s very talented – and creative. His kitchen at Orange Beach Concierge specializes in locally sourced, organic and sustainable ingredients whenever possible – and that that healthy dining should and CAN BE convenient – as well as affordable.

I asked (as a former Minnesotan myself) what changed about his cooking, when he moved south. He laughed, and said he couldn’t help but be influenced by the South! A man after my own travel heart, he said that “one of the greatest parts of traveling and cooking is that you are influenced by that area, and you take it with you in your education and life experience. I never want to stop – I always want to travel and eat and learn as much as I can about foods (especially locally sourced) and different places.”

I also queried him about what new foods he loves, living down south. Don’t be surprised that he answered fresh seafood, especially  oysters. He shared how delicate they are, and how sensitive they are to the environment that they grow in. Pan also noted that with the longer growing season (than Alaska, for sure, but also Minnesota), the agricultural environment in Alabama is abundant and great. The corn is amazing, and there is definitely a bbq scene (I laughed when he said that chefs “have to be on your game because many bbq critics will let you know if you know how to cook pork or not. I passed the pork test…”).

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe
Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Garlic Pomme Purée, Chef David’s way. Traditional French Cooking for the current times. This is the winning dish for the FLAVOR category at #thewharfuncorked2016.

Pan earned the Flavor Award at the Wharf Uncorked Food & Wine Festival in Orange Beach. His style is traditional French cooking for current times; his winning dish was a Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Garlic Pomme Purée. Held in mid-September, the three day event combined tastings of delicious food and tantalizing wines, live entertainment, a pinch of southern flare, and a dash of Gulf Coast hospitality.

Chef Pan is relatively new to the coast but his culinary impact is already well known by his peers. His new storefront (a commercial kitchen, located at The Wharf), is available by appointment only for events, private chef table dinners, and more. Did you know that the Orange Beach area has about 5,000 year-round denizens, but over 6 million people visit from Memorial Day to Labor Day? That’s some kind of crazy tourist season (imagine private cheffing during the busy season!), and also influences his cooking the rest of the year, he noted. I expect we’ll hear much more about this innovatibve, interesting chef, who cares deeply for his fellow cooks, as well as his (lucky!) clientele.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
16 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Roasting and brining proteins

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, cream, and Wickles pickles

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeWhat do you cook at home?
Ramen – I use the noodles to make sticky noodles…never use the packet

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Willingness to be open and try new foods

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Taking issue with others without bringing it to me first. I can make anyone more pleased if I know there is an issue

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?

Beer, wine, or cocktail?

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

Your favorite cookbook author?
Thomas Keller

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My tongs

Your favorite ingredient?
Kosher salt

Your least favorite ingredient?

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Peel potatoes – I am allergic

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Mediterranean, and Vietnamese

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork (Bacon)

Favorite vegetable?

Chef you most admire?
Francis Mallman

Food you like the most to eat?

Food you dislike the most?
Whole olives

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not sure if I will ever go there.

Recipe: Chargrilled Oysters

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

1 lb butter room temperature
1 large shallot minced
4 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 fresh lemons squeezed
2 tbsp creole seasoning
1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
Hot sauce to taste
Worchestershire sauce, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan shredded

24 oysters shucked, toss top shell
French bread crostini or favorite saltine crackers to complement


Fire grill
Reach 500 degrees and hold
Combine all ingredients except oysters in KitchenAid and mix
1 tbsp of mixture on shucked oyster
Place oysters on grill
Cook for 4 minutes, lid closed
Remove from grill
Squeeze fresh lemon juice on each oyster and serve and enjoy!

– The End. Go Eat. –



Cuban Mojo (pronounced “mo-ho”, not Austin Powers “mojo”) Chicken

Image result for cuban style mojo chicken

Nick is cooking tonight…and he’s making Cuban Mojo Chicken which is a marinade or sauce of only 5 ingredients: bitter orange, freshly ground cumin seeds, garlic, fresh oregano and olive oil. Having lived in Miami for most of his adult life, Nick loves Cuban food. According to LAist, there are quite a few Cuban restaurants in Echo Park, which we will need to check out.

Mojo originally appeared in The Canary Islands which are not far from Spain. As the frisky Spaniards started conquering The New World, we know they brought much of their language and food with them. This marinade which is fairly international, as the travelers dropped anchor at every island, can be made with any combination of acid/ oil such as red peppers (roasted and ground), green peppers (roasted and ground), cilantro, onions, and on and on.

In Cuban cooking, mojo typically applies to any sauce that is made with garlic, olive oil, and a citrus, in this case, bitter orange. Home cooks will notice in Cuban recipes that mojo is frequently used to flavor the yucca and is also used to marinate roast pork.  Cubans supposedly refer to the sauce as ‘mojito’ – not to be confused with the mint, rum and cachaça drink — and used for dipping fried plantain chips and yucca.  (I don’t know that for sure because the closest Cuban I have to is Nick. And he’s half Ecuadorean, not from Cuba but only lived in Miami where there is massive Cuban community. HA!)

If finding bitter (Seville) oranges is difficult – but not impossible — you might find it easier to add a couple of tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime and lemon to the fresh orange juice which is what Nick does.

(Incidentally, consumers can find this bottled and made with cornstarch. Don’t buy it. Make it. It’s so much better.)

1 to 1 ½ heads of garlic

1 cup fresh bitter orange juice (or if you can’t find  that substitute ½ cup of fresh orange juice, 1/8 cup of fresh lime juice (or approximate) , 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice

½ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh oregano (or 1 ½ teaspoons of dried)

1 full teaspoon toasted and freshly ground cumin seeds (Easy to find in your local market and will make a HUGE difference in the outcome with a wonderful smoky flavor.)

(With salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste)

Mash the garlic in a mortar and pestle or smash it into a paste which the flat side of a knife. Toast the cumin seeds in a skillet until fragrant. Grind.

Place everything into a bowl and stir well. Marinate any meat (chicken, pork or beef) for in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. Grill, roast or broil according to your taste. It’s a taste of the islands…and drink lots of mojitos.





Lettuce Eat Lettuce, Then Lettuce Talk About Sex (Kidding about the second part!)

Lettuce is one of those funny foods that I don’t think anyone really thinks about. There was a time when it was just diet food, especially the much maligned iceberg. Iceberg is not the most nutritious,but it’s so edible and fun. You can use it in place of taco shells, make cole slaw, use it in place of chips for dips. It’s sturdy just like it’s sister lettuces, romaine and red and green leaf. Funny to think that this vegetable, formerly thought of as a weed by Egyptians, is sturdy and durable….the Tonka truck of the food world.

Personally, I love lettuce and yes, even iceberg. It’s all about the texture. Crunchy. Watery. Green. It’s then about the toppings, the dressings, the vinaigrettes, the lovely sauces that cover and cling.

Let’s think about some of the lettuces: Bibb (probably the Queen…expensive); the red and green (Fraternal Twins); Romaine (the Glamourous one….in the Caesar, dressed up in bleu cheese too) and then the Iceberg (the Stalwart). We also have raw spinach, lamb’s leaf (my favorite….tossed with a little olive oil and really good salt! Dreams are made from this…), arugula. There are also Endive (the European…it’s curly, fancy…has an accent). However, lettuce stick to the well-known lettuces on this little episode.

Fun Facts about Lettuce:

1. It’s the number two vegetable behind potatoes of most consumed in the United States.

2. 75 %  of all lettuce is grown in California. (Since, the state is currently in the middle of one of the worst droughts in history, it will be very costly soon.)

3. You can’t preserve it. It is impervious to canning, pickling, bottling or freezing.

4. Lettuce was introduced to the New World in the mid-15th Century.

Just a little fun trivia…to lighten your day.


Grilled Romaine

You Will Need:


Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad

1 head of Romaine lettuce (Outer leaves peeled off)

Worcestershire sauce

Salt & pepper

Olive oil


Dijon Mustard


Parmesan cheese

Let’s Make This Puppy:

1. Heat a gas grill. (If using a charcoal, cook all the meat and let them embers cool. We want grill marks and a slight wilt….not blackened vegetables.)

2.  Cut the lettuce into fourths. If it’s a small head, maybe only in half…you be the judge. (You have the knife in your hand….I’m not going to tell you what to do.)

3. Brush the cut side with olive oil. Not a lot just enough to glisten and place cut side down on hot grill. DO NOT COVER. This is really just to give a slight taste of char, that BBQ outdoor flavor. It’s like parboiling a potato, we don’t want to cook it, we want to add a little character to it’s existing personality. Remember the first time your parents scolded you in public….and left a scar in your psyche, it’s like that; a little character development.

Leave the lettuce on the grill, creating the lovely grill marks. The rest of it might have a little bit of brown around the edges….again, a little character development or taste enhancement.

Remove and place on a plate.

4. Now onto the dressing: Take a wooden bowl that’s been thoroughly chilled in a freezer. (You don’t have to do this step. It’s only if you want to be fancy.) Rub the garlic clove on the inside of the bowl. Pour in about 1/2 cup of olive oil….couple of dashes of Worcestershire, a dollop of Dijon mustard, squeeze a little lemon…about 1 tablespoon….and add freshly grated Parmesan. Whisk it together in the bowl. (If you want it a creamier consistency…like in a chain restaurant….add some mayo.). Add the salt and pepper to taste.

5. Arrange the lettuce with the cut side up, Drizzle the dressing over the lettuce. If it’s a little thick, you can whisk in a little more olive oil. Grate some more cheese over it….and voila, Grilled Caesar Salad.

Note: I don’t like to add croutons to this. There is already a lot of crunch and we are dealing with half a head or a quartered lettuce. You won’t miss the croutons. Trust me.




Meatless Monday: Grilled Caesar Salad (just Meatless) and Family Suppers

Restaurant and Waiting Tables
Restaurant and Waiting Tables

It’s a funny thing about Caesar Salads. They bring me right back to waiting tables/bartending or working in a restaurant kitchen. Many of the “family meals” when I worked in restaurants consisted of a salad, burgers, pizza or pasta. There was never any of the slaved over staff dinners that is being touted in the new cookbook “OFF THE MENU: Staff Meals from America’s Favorite Restaurants”. (Lucky them!) In the almost 2 decades of not working in eateries, clearly the times have changed since I plied my trade for tips or peeled potatoes. (I wonder how many publicists actually worked in a commercial kitchen?)

Secondly, I love the salad…when made right. They have a wonderful garlicky and salty crunch that reminds me of eating a potato chip. It’s that bite of lettuce snapping and saltiness from the dissolved anchovy. (Yep, a Caesar with anchovies…kind of novel, huh?) And, then made with a coddled egg, (yep, again a little more novelty… made with an egg) just cooked so the yolk is still runny to give it the unctuouness, clinging to the Romaine and holding the freshly grated Parmesan.

Thirdly, bringing me back to where I started, the family meal at a restaurant…when the dinner shift began at one of the five New York City restaurants that I had worked in during the 80s and early 90s, and my co-workers, some of who are friends to this day, would talk about their mornings and afternoons, of auditions, of gallery installations, of stapling resumes to headshots, of writing….or of getting over last night’s hangover…of being in my early 20s.

Lastly, they remind me of warm New York City summer nights with blaring taxis horns, beautifully curvaceous women wobbling in excessively high shoes, worked out men in tight T-shirts and baggy jeans, neon lights, shots of tequila and one of the happiest times in my life. (Of course, I wish I knew it then.)

Grilled Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
Grilled Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Who knew that all these memories came in a salad and some nourishment too?

YOU WILL NEED (2 servings):
1 clove garlic
2 anchovies (or paste).
1 egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 juice of one lemon
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan (However much you want)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce
Croutons (Store bought or homemade. Make it easy on yourself. Do what you want and have time to do.)

GRILL THE LETTUCE (Or skip this altogether and chill lettuce for about 5 minutes in the freezer. If you do this, just tear the lettuce apart just before you dress it.)
1. Heat grill.
2. Peel outer leaves of romaine off until you get to the heart. (Or you can leave a couple of the dark leaves on.) Cut in half.
3. Brush cut side with olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Place on grill until slightly charred and wilted.
5. Remove from grill.
6. Arrange prettily on plates, cut side up.

1. Using the blade of a knife, carefully make a paste with the anchovy and garlic. Just mash it together and add a little…just a drop or two of oil.
2. Put this paste and the remaining ingredients… egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice… into a mixing bowl or food processor.
3. Whisk or process for about 30 to 40 seconds until the mixture is smooth. (If whisking, go a little longer. If you are really anal about it, pull out the timer and set it for a minute…and whisk.)
4. Now add the olive oil slowly until it becomes mixed and a little thicker, similar to a thin aoili (this may not happen if you are using a whisk…but give it a try.)
5. Add some Parmesan, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Get a pepper grinder if you don’t have one. It makes a huge difference.) You can refrigerate the dressing if you make a little too much.

1. Arrange the heads of lettuce cut side up.
2. Pour the dressing in a ‘Z’ pattern over lettuce.
3. Use enough dressing for you to be satisfied and happy. Dress the the salad to your liking but don’t over do it. (Remember, you pay that trainer at the gym a lot of money.)
4. Sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan.
5. Arrange croutons, ever so….
6. Voila!
7. Take a picture and upload to Instagram. (Most important part. You can use my photo if you don’t think yours is photogenic. You have my permission.)

….at David’s: Rubbed Pork Chops and Grilled Radicchio

May is National Salad Month, which to my less than haute cuisine mind (I grew up on canned beans and Hamburger Helper) means salads of lettuces and maybe another variety of vegetable tossed with a dairy dressing (mix in a little packet of dried herbs from a non-existant Ranch).

As I grew up and became a little more traveled and experienced chefs from around the world, I became intrigued by what salad meant to them. It could be cold noodles with fish, oranges mixed with radishes or slightly grilling a lettuce.

At David’s this week, we paired up his delicious Rubbed Pork Chops (rosemary, fennel, oregano and Mexican chili) with a Grilled Radicchio and a salad of Albion Strawberries with Mustard Frills and Arugula.

Herb Rubbed Pork Chops, Grilled Radicchio and Mustard Frills, Arugula and Starwberry Salad.
Herb Rubbed Pork Chops, Grilled Radicchio and Mustard Frills, Arugula and Starwberry Salad.

As the warmer weather continues, everything will get grilled. Another favorite is Grilled Cesar Salad with Homemade Croutons. I also love grilling fruit and mixing them in with lettuces.

Grilled Peach Salad with Blueberries, Manchego, and Spinach
Grilled Peach Salad with Blueberries, Manchego, and Spinach

For Grilled Radicchio, you need:
1 or 2 small heads of Radicchio
Olive oil for brushing
Salt and Pepper

1. Halve the heads.
2. Brush the cut side with olive oil. Place on grill. Close grill lid for about 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Look for grill marks, if there, remove.
4. Should be slightly wilted.

Let’s finish this up:
Place cut and grill marked side up. Salt and pepper. Serve up!