Roast Sirloin Tip Special

I’m setting this down because I’ll want to do it again sometime, and it sort of happened by accident.

Scene 1: The second floor of a Midwestern fourplex

Take a nice sirloin tip roast, salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 350°F, and start heating up the cast iron skillet over high heat on the stove-top.

Put olive oil in the skillet to cover, then sear the roast on all sides.

Put the skillet, roast and all, in the oven, uncovered, meat thermometer set for 140°F.

Take some broccoli, cauliflower, a sliced onion, and mushrooms. Put them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and red wine vinegar. Mix well.

When the roast reaches 140°F internal temperature, remove it from the oven, but leave the cast-iron skillet with the juices in there.

Put the veggies into the skillet, and let them roast while the meat rests.


Fade to black.

Scene 2. Same place, several hours later

Cook up some brown rice, using the leftover stock from yesterday’s chicken soup experience

Cut off some of the roast, and dice it.

Put it into a frying pan with olive oil, minced garlic, and the remains of the vegetable mix.

Heat quickly.

Mix with a really good barbecue sauce.

Eat over rice.



Last time Jen was over, we made burgers to bring to my sister’s birthday party. They went over well. Here, as well as we can remember, is what we did. [This is Jen. I’m adding my comments in brackets. I control the signal. I’m drunk on power.] <And this is Steve again, mixing Jen another power & tonic.>

2 lbs lean ground beef [I think it was 3 lbs beef? Seemed like more than a 2-to-1 ratio, anyway] <Um. It was one of those big tubes, and I never looked at the weight. Damn.> [Okay, readers, use your best judgement.]
1 lb ground bison [you have to make bison motions with your hand every time you say bison] <I thought that went without saying.>
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped.  No, finer than that.  Even finer. Little teeny tiny pieces, like Jen does. Pretend you’re OCD. [I’m just being CAREFUL. Reader, your onion pieces have to be tiny and even or everything will be terrible. Trust me.]
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
2 [Steve-]tablespoons minced garlic [which translates to 4 normal-tablespoons]
1 egg
A couple dashes Worcestershire sauce
A splash of red wine [What is the difference between a dash and a splash?] <A dash involves a quick back-and-forth motion with the bottle.  A splash is half of a glug.> [I did not think you would have an actual answer.]
Kosher salt
black pepper
[I think I wanted to add cumin but we didn’t have any.] <Yeah, I never know what’s in my spice cabinet. It’s all cumin and goin’.> [See, that isn’t helpful. Why would you make that terrible joke, Toni?] <Yeah, Aliera. That was uncalled-for.>


Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. [It is important to really beat the snot out of the egg, because that snot is what is going to hold your burgers together.] <I didn’t need that image.> Add onion, paprika, garlic, and the other stuff.

Mix in the meat. [Mixing the meat together and incorporating the egg mixture is best done by hand, so make sure your nails are clipped short and go to town. It’s fun! Right up until you’re done making the patties and then you realize how gross your hands are and only hot water can save you.] <Very hot water.  Like, ouch.>

Shape the patties, separate them with butcher’s paper or parchment, and freeze.  When it’s time to cook them, do that.  Then eat them. [You may use whatever accompaniments and/or condiments you prefer, but onion buns are the one true burger bun.] <Hear, hear!>

The Tonito Burrito™

You had cute nicknames for your kids, didn’t you? I mean, at least some of them, some of the time? I used to call Toni, “Toni Toni Tonito, of the Tonito Burrito.”  Yeah, yeah, it’s all cute and stuff.  The point is, I recently realized I had never actually made a Tonito Burrito.  So Toni and I put our heads together for what Toni’s Perfect Burrito would be.  I’m setting it down here so I don’t forget.


Three cups cooked white rice
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
Two pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed.
1 tablespoon minced garlic
mushrooms of choice (we used baby Portabella), sliced
bell peppers of choice (we use yellow and orange), sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
juice of 1 lime
large tortillas
A lot of turmeric
sweet and hot paprika
crushed red pepper
Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (viz Alton Brown)
olive oil
your favorite salsa (for moisture and tomato component)
sharp cheddar cheese (or whatever you prefer)
1 red onion, diced
optional: sliced lettuce, sour cream



In a saucepan over high heat, fry the rice in olive oil.  When it’s about done, stir in more turmeric than you think it needs.  Mix well, remove from heat, put in a bowl and set aside.

Dust the chicken with salt, pepper, and sweet paprika.

Heat up the saucepan over high heat, then put in olive oil to cover.  Throw in the Anaheim and jalapeno pepper.

Quickly saute over high heat, then add the chicken.

When the chicken is almost done* add in garlic, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and quickly saute

Add lime juice, a sprinkle of hot paprika, and a bit of oregano, basil, a dash of Tabasco sauce, crushed red pepper, cayenne, and marjoram.  Not too heavy on the oregano or it’ll taste like marinara sauce, and you don’t want that.


Building the burrito:

Preheat the tortillas.  If you live in the southwest, you have no excuse for not using good ones, preferably corn, but in Minnesota we take what we can get.

Spoon in some of the fried rice, then the chicken mixture until it looks about right.  Play with the quantities of each until it seems good.

Add salsa, diced red onion, finely shredded sharp cheddar, lettuce, and sour cream if desired but Toni doesn’t like it.


*If one of the people you’re cooking for is a vegetarian, finish the chicken, set it aside in a covered bowl, and then proceed with the rest of the rest of recipe, so the chicken can be omitted.


Tonnito Burritos are good, but the best thing about them is DOGS DON’T GET ANY!

(Sucks to be you, Tuli.  HAHAHA)


The place was called The Bakery, and it was something of a Chicago institution.  Insofar as Valabar & Sons is based on any real place, it is The Bakery.  We used to drive from Minneapolis, eat there, then turn around and drive home.  It was well worth the journey.

Chef Louis — Lájos Szathmary — was an immense man with a massive gray mustache.  Periodically, during dinner, he would come out to meet the patrons and say hello.  Once, while he was chatting with us, it came out that I was a writer and we spoke about that for a bit.  From there, we got onto the subject of art in general, and I brought the conversation back to cooking.  I expressed the opinion that he was an artist.  He considered for a moment, then said, “I am an honest cook.”

“Can you explain that?” I said.  “I understand what honesty means in writing, but what does it mean in cooking?”

His Hungarian accent was thick, but his English was perfectly understandable.  He frowned a little, then said, “Every year, we use one pound of margarine.  For everything else, we use butter.”

Obviously, I had to know.  “What do you use one pound of margarine for?”

“We have a Christmas show once a year,” he explained.  “And to do it, we have to open up the building behind us.  The walkway is always icy, so we put margarine on our shoes so we don’t slip on the way.”

That’s what margarine is good for, you see.  For actual cooking, you use butter.  You use the best ingredients you can find.  You don’t scrimp on the details, and you don’t try to pull a fast one on the reader–excuse me, the customer.  If you ever find yourself thinking that the person you’re cooking for can’t taste the difference between butter and margarine, you’ve started down a road that leads to McDonald’s.

If there is joy in the story, let it flow naturally from events that feel inevitable, because the ingredients you have acquired and prepared and mixed together have formed that way.  The same if there is sorrow.  If there is death, make it real, make it meaningful.  If there is love, earn it.  If the food is spicy, let it be because the flavor combination you wish requires it, not because you added extra peppers to show how hot you can cook.  Sweet confections are fine, but you know and I know that there is a cloying, over-sweetness that can ruin the best dessert.  And if someone doesn’t care for your concoction because there isn’t enough sugar, or because it is too spicy, or there wasn’t enough action, or there was too much dialog, then at least you can know that what you set on the table was truthful.

The point is not to impress the reader with how good you are, but rather to delight, amaze, move, and even, if I may, epiphanize.  I am not the best writer whoever set fingers to keyboard, and sometimes my dishes don’t emerge from the kitchen tasting the way I want them to.  But I don’t cook my stories with margarine.  And neither should you.

Me and Food and Stuff

The lovely and talented Fran Wilde interviewed me about food and particle physics except without the particle physics.  I talk about Vlad as a cook, about the way we use food in The Incrementalists (with Skyler White, Sept. 2013 from Tor), and other things.  Not particle physics.  I made that up.  Just drop it already.  Sheesh.  If I’d known it would be such a big deal, I’d have talked about particle physics, except I don’t know anything about it.

Oh, right, there’s a recipe too; for traditional Hungarian fra diavolo sauce (see what I did there?  That was funny because traditional fra diavolo is Italian, but I called it Hungarian.  That was the joke.  It had nothing to do with particle physics).

The interview can be found here:

A good introduction to particle physics can be found here.