Food & Drink

January 21, 2009

McCray: Are you ready for some football favorites?

Everyone has a cookbook these days. And I do mean everyone.

Everyone has a cookbook these days. And I do mean everyone.

Did you know "Prince of Tides" author Pat Conroy has written a cookbook? (Think Southern food like breakfast shrimp and grits). So have musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan (plantain soup and other Cuban fare), as well as actor Morgan Freeman (well, he didn't actually write it — it's a collection of chef and celebrity recipes, with proceeds going to hurricane relief).

Even the Desperate Housewives have a cookbook. (Would anybody, outside of Wisteria Lane, cook oysters poached in Champagne and cream?).

NFL football players have a cookbook, too. They're among the contributors to "The Sunday Night Football Cookbook: 150 Great Family Recipes from America's Pro Chefs and NFL Players" (Time, Inc., $27.95).

Most of the recipes come from chefs. But a few are from players and sports broadcasters. They look surprisingly yummy.

Take this week's recipe, Korean-style short ribs, by former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber. I picked it because Barber's picture is on the page and he is one of the few sports personalities I recognize. Barber is a regular on the "Today" show. I read somewhere that he is being considered to replace co-host Matt Lauer when Lauer retires.

I'm not a short-rib fan, but I like Asian food, so I decided to give Barber's recipe a try. Shopping was surprisingly simple. I thought I would have trouble finding the thinly cut boneless beef short ribs the recipe called for, but they were right there in the meat case at the grocery store.

When I got the short ribs home, though, some of them seemed a little thick, so I sliced them lengthwise. You could have the butcher do this for you.

The trick with this recipe is to remember to marinate the meat. I did, and left it in the fridge for just shy of three hours. It was surprisingly tender and flavorful — nothing like the tough, dry short ribs I remember my mom cooking when I was a kid.

Ah, cooking the short ribs. Be sure you use a nonstick pan because the marinade burns. And don't turn the heat up too high. I did, and I still can't get the residue off my pan.

My husband and I wrapped the short ribs in lettuce leaves and were surprised at what a kick they had. The lettuce gives a refreshing taste to the spicy meat.

The short ribs were wonderful, but not were worth burning a pan beyond recognition. I'm not sure I would make them again.

Still, I'd be willing to try more celebrity recipes. But, no offense to Pat Conroy, I'm not sure about shrimp for breakfast.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358 or at

What The Testers Had To Say

Delicious is the verdict for the Korean short ribs. The preparation is so simple: a little bit of chopping and measuring and the marinade is ready. I couldn't find boneless ribs, but my butcher assured me that the strips with the bone would work fine and the bone would add flavor. We cut the bone off at the table. The meat really absorbs the marinade taste and cooks quickly. I think the lettuce leaves add a nice crunch with the meat, although some of the guests didn't like the cold lettuce with the hot meat. I served them with fried rice and green beans. This is definitely a keeper and the marinade would be just as good on other meats.

— Ann Waldron; Sequim, Wash.

This recipe is easy until one gets to the last two sentences. "Remove the meat from the marinade and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side." How does one do this with two pounds of thinly sliced beef short ribs? It might be done by flipping the skillet so that all the meat at one time flips over. I haven't reached that level of expertise. Fortunately, I worked with only a small amount of beef (less than ¾ pound); I could turn the pieces individually, but even so, I don't think I succeeded in cooking each piece "1-2 minutes on each side." The last sentence says, "Serve . . . with lettuce leaves for wrapping." How does one do that? What should I do with the meat after I remove it from the skillet? How do I prepare the lettuce leaves? Should I wash them and spin them dry? Blot them with paper towels? And how much meat goes into each lettuce leaf? Speaking of meat, how is each piece sliced? "Very thinly" to me meant about the thickness of thick-sliced bacon. By the way, the meat was tender and delicious. I'll serve this again, but next time over rice.

— Ralph Moore, Modesto

I have enjoyed kalbi before but never made it myself, and I am glad I decided to give this recipe a try. There's not much effort in making these ribs and that is always a plus for us workin' folk. I put it together and went to work, so it marinated several hours longer than the recipe calls for, but when I got home, it wasn't long before mealtime. I served it like I have had it served to me ... with sides of macaroni salad and steamed rice and, of course, cold beer. I have sent the recipe on to fellow cooks, and a friend in Florida actually tried it right away and he gave it "keeper" status, too.

— Carolyn Cosner, Modesto

All right! Asian fajitas like those at P.F. Chang! This is a good recipe. It's easy to make, tasty and quick, if you remember to allow for the marinating time. The boneless beef chuck ribs at the Scenic Save Mart are called "flanken style." The meat seemed to need a bit more cooking than four minutes: five or six to get past "very rare."

It was good served right from the skillet on the table. I stacked the lettuce leaves on another plate. I chose rice as the side.You could also serve this dish without the wrap: just over rice.

— Joan Peck, Modesto

Being a fan of lettuce wraps, I was eager to try this one. I partially froze the short ribs, making them easier to slice thin. The whole preparation of this recipe was very easy, so it was great for a weeknight. Lots of flavor in the marinade. The family liked it and we will definitely have this again for dinner.

— Pam Kisst, Escalon

We love kalbi! At Korean restaurants, you typically cook the meat at your table on a coal grill. It was hard to mimic, but we came pretty close. I substituted peanut oil for toasted sesame oil and this seemed to work well. The first batch of meat was cooked in a skillet, then we switched to the barbecue and never looked back. The meat was sweet, crisp and delicious. As with any Korean meal, we paired the kalbi with kimchi. We'll definitely experiment with this recipe in the future.

— Ann Griffith, Modesto

The Save Mart butcher told me the cut I needed was called beef chuck flank-style rib boneless. So I got only a 1-pound package and halved all the marinade ingredients. I did follow the ingredient list and marinated for three hours. The cooking time was right, as the beef came out medium, and that's how we like it. The flavors were good, but it was a little tough. I let the meat rest 10 minutes before slicing it across the grain, but it was still pretty chewy. We didn't use lettuce leaves, but served it with potatoes and veggies. The marinade would be fine for any cut of beef; maybe if the time was extended to overnight, it would tenderize the meat more.

— Sandy Loya , Modesto

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