Oysters and Homemade Cocktail Sauce

July 25, 2011 § 7 Comments

Boy we love oysters. So when we stopped by Catalina Offshore for some fresh fish this past weekend, I had Tommy throw in a couple of dozen of oysters. The oysters are actually Blondes from Carlsbad Aquafarm. I’ve seen them at farmer’s markets before but I think you have to buy in large quantities if you want to buy directly from the farm. So if you’re not into eating 10o oysters at a time, check out your local farmer’s market or pop into Catalina Offshore during their walk-in hours to pick up a dozen (or two or three).

I’ve never shucked oysters before and don’t own an oyster knife. But after looking at a couple of youtube videos, I was ready to shuck my first oyster. I used an old cheese knife that looks similar to an oyster knife that worked very well.

Here are a couple of the little beauties before shucking. Sorry the pictures aren’t pretty but I was serving (eating) them as I shucked so no need for fancy food designing. I was too much in a hurry to scarf these down. I used the kitchen towel during shucking and it did double duty to hold the oyster right side up after opening.

It actually wasn’t very hard to shuck the oysters. By the third one, I was opening the shells rather quickly. Here’s a more intimate look at one of these oysters.

Look how beautiful and clean they are. These babies were briny, creamy, delicious! I whipped up a small batch of cocktail sauce (recipe below). Just the way I like them!

Homemade Cocktail Sauce:

Adjust the amount of horseradish to the desired spicy level and the amount of Tabasco for heat level. I like mine slightly less horseradishy than the Mister, which he can add more directly on top of the oyster.


  • 4 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish (I used the creamy type)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4-6 drops Tabasco sauce (more if you want more heat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix everything together in a small bowl and serve. That’s it, it’s that easy.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

December 5, 2010 § 2 Comments

Hey you. Yeah you. I want to tell you about our new favorite pasta dish, Shrimp Fra Diavolo. (cheers, clapping, standing ovation!) Yes, my cyber friends, this dish deserves a standing ovation in my book. But when it’s the Rao-Pellegrino family’s recipe (of the famous Rao’s Restaurant), how could it be anything else but, right? So for the rest of this post, I want you to read it using your best “Good Guys” accent. Or for the girls, using your best Nadia G accent, eh! (Nadia, you are bitchin’!)

For most people, getting a table at the original Rao’s in NY is as likely as “getting made”. I think we’d have better odds at winning the lottery. So it’s either going to Rao’s in Las Vegas or ordering from Rao’s online, right? Fa-get about it because you can have Rao’s famous Shrimp Fra Diavolo right in your own kitchen! Actually, you can get all the recipes from Rao’s cookbooks (Rao’s Cookbook and Rao’s Recipes).

Fra diavolo means “Brother Devil” in Italian. I believe it was Mario Batalli who said fra diavolo is actually an American-Italian dish. Sometimes fra diavolo has been referred to as arrabbiata sauce (meaning angry sauce) but there is a difference between the two. Arrabbiatta sauce is tomatoes, garlic and red chili cooked in olive oil. Fra diavolo is a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood, which could be tomato-based or not. So I guess you can say that arrabbiatta sauce is a type of fra diavolo, you get my meaning?

I modified a couple of things from the original recipe (hope I don’t get no dead fish in a box) but I think Frank Pellegrino would forgive me since it’s still made with love. The original recipe calls for dredging the shrimp before cooking. Personally, I prefer it non-dredged. Your choice. I also made a modification to the garlic, which I would recommend to garlic lovers. And what Italian dish loving person don’t love garlic? Here’s my version of Rao’s Shrimp Fra Diavolo served with linguine (optional).

Note: Maybe some of you eagle eyes noticed that there is calamari in the photo. You be right. I would have added clams and mussels too if my local Henry’s would have had them like their ad said they would. Maybe the delivery guy was swimming with the fishes, OH! (oh you know I had to add that saying in somewhere). If you like calamari in your dish too, slice cleaned calamari (about 2 medium sized per person) into 1/2 inch rings and add them at the very end with the cooked pasta and shrimp. Calamari only needs a few minutes to cook or else you risk serving tough squid. Serving tough squid could make you find yourself next to the Henry’s delivery guy comparing who’s got the bigger concrete shoes. Just tell him it was custom made just for you.

If you want to add clams or mussels, reserve the olive oil from the cooked shrimp and use that to cook the clams and mussels until they open. Set those aside with the shrimp and then add it back in along with the cooked shrimp and pasta at the end, making sure everything is heated through. Make sure your saute pan is large enough to hold everything. You may also want to cut back the amount of shrimp to 1 pound, depending on how much clams and mussels you use.

Adapted from Rao’s Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Serves 4


  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and de-veined, butterflied, tails removed (patted dry if dredging)
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour (if dredging)
  • 1/2 cup fine-quality olive oil
  • 6 small garlic cloves, peeled and cut into chunks, divided
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Dried red-pepper flakes to taste (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 (28-oz can) canned imported San Marzano Italian plum tomatoes, hand-crushed
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 lb. linguine (optional)


If serving with linguine, bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the boiling water and cook pasta until just al dente. The pasta will be finished off in the sauce. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking.

(If dredging, dredge shrimp in flour, making sure all sides are well coated. Pat to remove excess flour.)

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When oil is very hot, but not smoking, add shrimp and 1/2 of the garlic, saute for 2 minutes. (Do not crowd pan; prepare shrimp in batches, if necessary.) Remove shrimp and set aside. Drain off all excess oil and discard garlic.

While pan is off heat, pour in wine. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add oregano, pepper flakes, remaining 1/2 of garlic, salt and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. I left in the garlic so it can cook in the wine bath. It takes the pungency out of the garlic, gets all soft and very very tasty.

Stir in tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly. Stir in basil and shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. If adding calamari, clams, mussels and/or linguine, do it now. Serve it up with a few more sprinkling of torn fresh basil on top.

Buon appetito!

Pulled Pork

July 22, 2010 § 4 Comments

Surprise, a new post! Sorry it’s been a while. The past month and a half have been so busy. Work was busy and busy playing nurse-mom to one of the dogs who is on her 3rd week of recovery from surgery. Playing nurse-mom for 3 weeks isn’t as bad as trying to get her to relax and taking it easy. I just don’t think the word “easy” is part of the Corgi’s vocabulary. So to make up for not posting in a while, this is going to be a rather long post, sorry. Well, smoking meat is a long process anyway.

I’ve been playing around with various vinegar-ketchup style BBQ sauce (the YLDS version is here) and for the past week, I’ve had smoked butt on the brain. No, no, not “Ass on fire, ass on fire. Put it out, put it out.” Sorry, that was sad rendition of “House on Fire“.  I’m talking about pork butt, no, not my butt but rather a Boston Butt or pork shoulder. I don’t have a smoker nor a charcoal grill. So I’ve been doing a lot of digging around to see how best to utilize the gas grill to get somewhat acceptable smoked meat. I finally decided on the zen path of Meathead’s, aka Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn, Perfect Pulled Pork (recipe and much more can be found here). Due to respect for copyrights, please go to Craig’s sight for the recipes. I will note below what I’ve done different from his recipes.

Meathead doesn’t believe in brining. I, however, am deadly afraid of dried pork, or any kind of meat for that matter. I’ve tried many smoked pulled pork sandwiches from various BBQ places in San Diego and most, except one, were too dry for my liking. I just feel that a good pulled pork should be able to stand on it’s own and not depend on a BBQ sauce to add moisture back into the meat. I don’t think there’s an official name for the fear of dry meat so I’m making one up, siccuscarnphobia.  So having siccuscarnphobia and this being the first time I’ll be going through all the effort of smoking a large pork shoulder on a gas grill, I wanted to minimize dryness by brining first.

The brining solution I used is as follows, which was plenty to completely cover the 5.5 lb pork shoulder:

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 quarts cold water
3 tablespoon of Memphis Dust Rub (modified)

Brining Directions:
Add the salt to the water and keep stirring until all the salt has dissolved. Add brown sugar and rub mixture, stirring well to combine. You could use lukewarm water to help to dissolve the salt faster. Just chill the brining solution until cold.

I put the pork shoulder into a large vacuum seal bag but you can use any large, food safe bag or container that will allow the brine mixer to completely cover the shoulder. Let the meat marinade for at least 8 hours. I went 12 hours on this one, which I thought was ideal.

Let me just pause right here to talk about the Memphis Dust Rub. Best rub I’ve tasted. I’m a huge fan of sweet and spicy combos and this rub fits the bill. The only modification I made is the paprika. I added 1/4 cup of smoked paprika in addition to a 1/2 cup of Hungarian sweet paprika. I thought the smoked paprika gave the rub a nice tinge of kick.

Remove the pork shoulder and patted dry. Then liberally rubbed the modified Memphis Dust Rub all over the shoulder, getting into all the meat folds. I let it sit to come to room temperature and to let the rub meld into the meat. From there on, I followed Meathead’s instructions for smoking the shoulder. I had thought about letting the shoulder sit another night in the fridge with the rub on but decided against it. The stomach was grumbling and it wanted pulled pork for dinner!

I used hickory wood chips since that was all that was available when I was at the store. I used an aluminum foil cake pan to hold all the wood chips. I have a cast iron smoker box for a gas grill but it’s pretty tiny and I wanted to be able to add chips easily (the smoker box has a heavy lid). Worked out just great and easy clean up! Turned on all 3 burners and set the pan with chips to one side. About 20 minutes later, the chips were smoking and ready to for the shoulder.

I turned off two of the burners, keeping the one below the chips on. Set the shoulder on one of the other burners. I stuck a digital thermometer into the center of the shoulder to monitor the internal temperature. The toughest part was keeping the temperature at 225 degrees F. The rule is 1.5 to 2 hours per pound of meat. So that would put me somewhere around 6:00 – 7:00 pm for the 5.5 lb shoulder. Perfect. At least in theory. 

At about 1 pm, the internal temperature was only around 114 degrees F. I’ve read “the stall” can happen anywhere from 140 – 160 degrees, with a possible 2nd stall around 180 degrees. I wasn’t worried about the second stall since I was going to pull it at 180 anyway. But who would have thunk I hit the stall it at about 125 degrees. It lingered and lingered, maybe inching up a degree every 15-20 minutes. I have to admit, I was starting to get a little antzy because at that rate, we weren’t going to eat until 9:00 pm. It didn’t break out of it until 5 pm and even then, it was still very slow. At about 6:00 pm, the internal temp was only around 147 degrees, still only inching a few degrees every 15 minutes. Yikes. Well, since the Mister didn’t want frozen Tostinos for dinner, we decided to just go out to eat. But what to do with the shoulder???

Since I was out of hickory chips by then and getting a bit tired of monitoring the temperature, I decided to let the oven finish the cooking. I preheated the oven to 225, dug out the oven probe, removed the shoulder from the grill an onto an aluminum baking pan. Once the oven was to temp, I stuck the probe into the shoulder, plugged it into the oven socket and set the temp to 180 degrees. Then off to dinner we went.

To make a long post longer, it took another 3 hours of cooking time to finally get to 180 degrees. Wow. I shut off the oven and let the shoulder rest. I didn’t shred it until the next day, which was a little harder than if the meat was still warm/hot. But in the end, it was worth every bit of effort.

Postscript: I’ve been thinking about the reason(s) why my stall time and stall temperature were longer than typical and I think it might have to do with the brining. Maybe the quality of the pork shoulder had something to do with it also but the brining makes much more sense. Salt will affect cooking time and even temperature. So if you do decide to brine, just keep that in mind.

Here’s a shot of it when I pulled it out of the oven. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I tied the shoulder before smoking (a poor effort at that) but it really didn’t need it.

 Here’s a shot of the inside. The meat was so moist and juicy. Thank goodness! And the bark turned out pretty good.

Although the ends of the shoulder looked a bit dry to me at first, but it was very tender and not dry at all, except for the bark area. The meat could have been a bit more smoky for my taste and was a bit surprised how mild it was. It was there but I smelled more like smoke than the shoulder did. But overall, I thought it turned out really well considering. And talk about the flavor! A good balance between sweet and spicy. Delicious!

You think this would be the end of the post but you would be wrong. I have to talk a little about the BBQ sauce now. Don’t get me wrong. This shoulder can stand on its own without any sauce but we lika da sauce, what can I say. I didn’t go with the YLDS BBQ since I wanted to try another recipe for this meal. What I ended up with was different than what I started with.

As the shoulder was smoking, I was working on the BBQ sauce. I decided to try a cider vinegar bbq sauce but once I made it, I thought the vinegary taste would overpower pulled pork. It had a great kick and taste, especially from the chipotle pepper but didn’t feel it would work well with the rub. I’ve had plenty of pork sandwiches where the sauce just completely covered the flavor of the pork. I decided to adjust the recipe by adding Memphis Dust Rub to it. I did mention that I love this rub, right? So here’s what I think is the perfect BBQ sauce to go with this beautiful pulled pork. The recipe will make about 1.5 cups of sauce. Good for a 5.5 lb pulled pork.

Ingredients for BBQ Sauce:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1 whole chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
3 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
8 oz of tomato sauce without salt
Dash of Worcestershire sauce, about 1/2 tablespoon
A pinch of salt, about 1/8 teaspoon
1/2 cup Memphis Dust Rub


Add all the ingredients except the rub into a blender or food processor. Puree everything together until smooth. Put sauce in a sauce pan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Memphis Dust Rub, stirring in well and simmer for another 10 minutes.

The cole slaw served with the pork sandwich is also Meatball’s recipe. The recipe for this delicious creamy slaw that went well with the sandwich can be found here. I chose to go with the thinly chopped version.

The overall combination of everything was the best pulled pork sandwich either of us had ever had. We’ve enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich at a famous San Diego BBQ restaurant but we both emphatically agreed that this version was way better. I would certainly go through the effort again. Although next time I might just smoke the dickens out of it on the grill for a few hours and then finish off in the oven since I think the oven did a much better job at controlling the temperature than I did.

Ribs with You Lika Da Sauce (YLDS)

June 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is the follow-up to the “You Lika Da Sauce” (YLDS) post (found here). What can I say, the sauce is good. We lika da sauce, at least on baby back ribs. By itself, I thought it was maybe missing something. But it was another thing mopped on the ribs grilled over the flames. The grilling seemed to mellowed out the vinegar as well as carmelized all the flavors even more. The combination of the tang and the slight sweetness with just a touch of spice left my lips tingling.

Didn’t do anything special with the ribs. Did a simple dry rub of kosher salt, onion powder and garlic powder. Then threw them on the gas grill with offset heat (i.e., ribs were not directly over flames) for 30 minutes (15 minutes on each side). Then I put a generous coat of YLDS on one side, cooked for 15 minutes, turned it over, and put on a coat on that side and cooked for another 15 minutes.  This went on until the ribs were done. I forget how long the exact time was, probably 2 hours total. Then I turned on the rotisserie burner and gave each side of the ribs a nice browning to get a crust on both sides. If you don’t have this feature, throw the ribs over open flames for a few minutes on each side, taking care not to burn them. And you should have something like these.

The ribs were not fall off the bone but was tender, juicy and had a bit of pull, which I enjoy in ribs. I served extra sauce on the side for me but not the Mister loved it just the way it was. These were so good. I saved about half of the sauce, reduced even further on the stove (about another 15-20 minutes) intensified the flavors, kind of what the grilling did, made for a great dipping sauce on the side.

Only bad thing about this is that I’m not sure if I want to mess with the recipe anymore. But I think what I’ll try next is use this recipe to make different kind of other BBQ sauces, maybe a Pineapple BBQ sauce. Heck, I have all summer to play with it!

Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend!

You Lika Da Sauce, Eh?

May 30, 2010 § 3 Comments

Since this weekend is the official “unofficial” start of Summer, I thought it would be a good intro to my current experiment, BBQ sauce. I’m approaching it much like the Brownie Experiment, start off with a base recipe and then tweak it until I get to a version that’s a keeper.

Vinegary type BBQ sauces is not my favorite but I have enjoyed a few types, such as Phil’s. BTW, for Phil’s fanatics, his sauces are now available locally in SD and online thru their store. So someone is going to ask why don’t I just go out and buy a couple of bottles of Phil’s? What’s the fun in that? Sure, I will probably pick up a bottle if I see it while shopping but then it kind of takes away from going to Phil’s. I don’t want to recreate Phil’s BBQ sauce. That’s not the point. The point is that I actually have found vinegary-tomato based BBQ sauces that I liked so in theory, I can come up with a version that we would like to use for BBQs at home and without all the preservatives that come with bottled BBQs.

Below is the base recipe that I’m starting with. I’ve got a batch waiting for some baby back ribs for tonight’s dinner (post to come). By itself, it’s pretty good. Definitely can taste the tang of the vinegar but the slight sweetness gives it some balance. I don’t think it needs more sugar since it has quite a bit already. I will most likely try reducing that the next go around. But still missing a little something. Maybe cut back a bit on the vinegar too next time. We’ll taste it on the ribs and hopefully it’ll come to me what needs to be adjusted for the next round.

You Lika Da Sauce #1


2 C white vinegar
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 Tbsp dark Molasses
5 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 C Heinz Organic ketchup (if using regular ketchup, might want to reduce sugar a bit)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Tabasco sauce (or other chili sauce you like)
1 tsp ground red pepper (such as cayenne or red chili)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in pot and bring to boil. Turn heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will reduce down a bit and should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Holiday weekend. Please take a moment to remember all the U.S. military men and women who died for the best country in the world.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Sauces category at CAB Cooks.