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The Weekend Chef

Weekend Chef road trip: Omaha beef, ramen and sushi

Posted 4:16pm on Friday, Jun. 21, 2013

It has been a long time since I've been on a 2-week road trip… Matter of fact, I am pretty sure I was riding in the back of a station wagon the last time I went on a trip this long. But my wife’s high school reunion was coming up in Omaha (I have been forbidden to say what year), so we packed up the car and headed to the land of corn fed beef, college baseball championships and a really big zoo. My wife Susan still has family and friends living in Omaha dating all the way back to Girl Scout Camp Wa-Shawtee, but for me, it was all about the corn-fed beef Omaha is famous for.

I had just attended a cooking class with Chef Tim Byres a couple of days before the trip and was eager to try grilling steaks on a hard wood fire like Byres did in his class. Turns out my brother-in-law Bob has been tinkering with a homemade 50-gallon drum cooker, similar to what I have seen Byres use at the Austin Food & Wine Festival this year. So while Susan was out with her friend from Girl Scouts, Bob and I picked up some Mesquite, then went to Rick’s Meat and had them hand cut four 2-inch thick rib eyes!

When it was time to cook the steaks, Bob started up a bonfire in the 50-gallon drum. I did not actually see him start the fire, but from the looks of the flames, ethanol must have been involved. While the fire was quieting down, I started rubbing the steaks with a coffee and chili rub and sliced some veggies to roast on the grill.

Bob tended the fire with what looked like a 6- or 7-iron? I don’t really play golf, but it definitely was an iron of some sort. Once the flames settled down, we put the steaks on the fire and the veggies on a gas grill to roast. The 50-gallon drum was showing 600ºF on temp gauge, which gave the steaks a pretty good sear. We pulled the steaks when they reached 130-135ºF on an instant read thermometer. The steaks and veggies turned out great! You can really taste the difference between grass and corn-fed beef! I took some pictures with my iPhone, so check them out in the slideshow above. I also have recipes underneath the story for coffee rubbed steaks and roasted veggies.

We also decided to spend a couple of days in Chicago after Susan’s reunion (still not telling the year) to visit Chef Keunsik Lee, a sushi chef friend that used to be the head chef at one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Fort Worth, Wasabi Sushi.

Chef Lee recently graduated culinary school in Dallas and landed a sweet job at Japonais Restaurant in Chicago after his graduation. We had originally set up a reservation for our first night there, but ended up canceling that night due to bad weather. I mean really, this was my first trip to Chicago and the day I show up they are calling for tornadoes and 100 mph straightline winds? I could have stayed in Texas if I wanted weather like that!

Fortunately, the storms blew through that night and the next day was bright and sunny (this really does sound like Texas). We rescheduled our dinner at Japonais and had lunch at a fun ramen restaurant called the Slurping Turtle. I have written about ramen before, but that was the instant variety, and what we had at the turtle was definitely not instant. We started out with appetizers of Duck Fat Fried Chicken and a Pork Belly snack. I decided after the appetizers that the next time I fry chicken some duck fat will be involved. But we really came there to try some ramen with homemade noodles! So Susan had a Roasted Garlic Ramen made with clams, mussels and garlic oil, and I had a savory Tonkotsu Ramen made with pork broth and pork shoulder. Both were excellent and there was much slurping involved. Again, pictures up in the slideshow.

After lunch we walked around Chicago and did a little shopping, hoping to walk off our lunch. By the time we arrived at Japonais we were ready for a sushi feast. Chef Lee pulled out all the stops and we ended up with a huge platter of sushi with a sampling of almost every fish he had in the case. The restaurant itself was also a site to see; it was two stories and had a bar area that included a large section of a river walkway. I really have missed Chef Lee at Wasabi, but I am glad to see him working at such a nice restaurant.

Well, that was my 2-week road trip; sorry I have not had any posts the last couple of weeks. Be sure to check out the food pics in the slideshow above the story.

Coffee Rubbed Steak

Ingredients for each steak

  • 1 (32oz) Rib Eye, 2 inch thick.
  • 1 tablespoon chili power
  • 1 tablespoon ground coffee
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (peanut oil is best for grilling)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Rub steak down with a little vegetable oil, and then season steak liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Now season both sides with a mixture of the chili powder, paprika and ground coffee. Let steak set out of refrigerator for 1 hour to get to room temperature.

  2. Preheat grill to high (400-450ºF) temp.

  3. Grill steak 10 to 15 minutes per side till temperature reads 130ºF for medium rare on an instant read thermometer.
  4. Let rest for 5 minutes, slice and serve.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Asparagus


  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 1 pound brussel sprouts
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano, parsley or both
  • 1 tablespoon Chicago steak seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Prep asparagus by cutting of the tough ends, then cut asparagus in half so that they are close to the same length as the brussel sprouts.

  2. Cut brussel sprouts in half lengthwise. Place brussel sprouts and asparagus in a baking dish or large bowl; add vegetable oil, vinegar, oregano/parsley, steak seasoning and salt and pepper. Toss by hand till the seasoning and oil are well distributed with the brussel sprouts and asparagus.

  3. Preheat oven or grill to 400ºF. Distribute brussel sprouts and asparagus onto a baking sheet or grill basket.

  4. Roast for 20 minutes in oven or on the grill, then pull and garnish with some shredded Parmesan cheese.

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