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Charlie Palmer’s tips for a flavor-filled Father’s Day cookout

Award-winning chef and restaurateur Charlie Palmer of Healdsburg grew up in upstate New York, where his father worked as a plumber, electrician and part-time farmer, but enjoyed cooking for his family whenever he found a spare moment.

“My dad was always grilling and making breakfast, “ Palmer said. “He was the hardest working man I’ve ever known.”

Now the father of four boys himself, Palmer has worked hard to feed his own family over the years, drawing upon recipes that he grew up eating while borrowing flavors from the high-end food he serves at the 14 restaurants across the country that he owns and oversees.

If you live and shop in and around Healdsburg, you’ve probably bumped into Palmer at the grocery store, shopping for dinner to prepare for his wife, Lisa and his four “guys.”

“There’s always ancillary friends, and it’s not just them,” Palmer said. “It’s fun. The boys always have their interesting ideas. They all have different tastes.”

Along the way, Palmer has passed on the chef’s knife to his son Reed, a Cardinal Newman High School senior, who now works at Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg as much as he can, in between SATs and athletic games.

“Some of my best memories are in the kitchen next to my dad,” Reed said. “I like just learning from him and spending as much time with him as I can.”

This Father’s Day, if all goes well, Reed and his twin brother, Eric, plus older brothers Courtland, a senior at UC Berkeley, and Randolph, a junior at New York University, will be turning the tables and cooking a family dinner for their dad.

Chances are, they will serve up some of the familiar comfort foods Palmer has collected in his new cookbook, “Charlie Palmer’s American Fare: Everyday Recipes from My Kitchens to Yours” (Hachette Book Group, 2015).

For a Father’s Day feast, Palmer suggests a backyard grilled dinner that would include a Balsamic-Soy Grilled Tri-Tip Steak with classic sides such as Grilled Romaine with Jack Cheese and Double-Stuffed Potatoes.

“Somehow steak on the grill is a perfect Father’s Day menu,” Palmer said. “And I think that grilled romaine is really cool. If you have the grill going, it makes sense to finish some romaine, which takes a minute and a half on the grill. Then you add a vinaigrette and a cheese crumble.”

The Double Stuffed Potatoes, a favorite with the four “guys” in Palmer’s family, can be labor-intensive, but if you prep them in advance - baking them for an hour, mashing the pulp and blending it with cheese, sour cream, butter and bacon bits - they can be easily finished off at the last minute.

“Charlie Palmer’s American Fare” cookbook grew out of an earlier book, “Charlie Palmer’s Casual Cooking,” which the chef wrote in 2000, when his sons were still small enough to ride on his shoulders.

Palmer aimed that book, like the new one, squarely at the home cook, because he was disappointed that people were not cooking out of the coffee table books he had written, such as “The Art of Aureole,” which celebrates his flagship restaurant in New York.

“American Fare” started out as a simple update of “Casual Cooking,” then grew into a much bigger project, with a lot of new recipes that eliminate the fuss and muss without sacrificing flavor.

“The challenge is to bring out the flavors and the tastes of some of the dishes we do in the restaurant,” he said. “But in a practical way, in the way that I cook at home, when you don’t have three sous chefs and a dishwasher.”

The cookbook includes a chapter entitled “Family Favorites and Backyard Dinners,” along with Palmer’s personal reflections on food and family, and the inspiration he derives from both his kids and his young chefs.

“I feel pretty lucky to continue to be inspired both by the diverse team of young chefs who work in my restaurants and by the inquiring minds of my sons,” he wrote in the introduction. “My own creativity is sparked by the integrity, intensity and joy of their young palates.”

Recipes in the “Family Favorites” chapter include Breakfast Crepes, both savory and sweet, which can come together within minutes.

“We do these savory crepes a lot, because it all happens in the kitchen and we’re usually watching Sports Center and brewing a pot of coffee,” Palmer said. “People take turns making the crepes.”

There’s also a recipe for Reed’s Bruschetta, an appetizer that grew out of the fact that his son does not like raw tomatoes.

“It’s one of the only things he doesn’t eat,” Palmer said. “Taking tomatoes, fresh and ripe, and cooking them slightly, that satisfies it for him.”

Then there’s Mom’s Barbecued Chicken, a secret recipe that Palmer’s sister, Brenda, managed to get out of their mom before she passed away.

“I’ve eaten that chicken since I was a little kid, and it has become part of my food memory,” Palmer said. “All of these family favorite recipes I’ve cooked over and over again.”

There’s even a recipe for Dad’s Oatmeal Cookies, everyday treats that get gobbled up almost as fast as Palmer can bake them.

“I’m not going to fib - I got this recipe off a box of Quaker Oats years ago,” he wrote in the book. “I’ve been making these cookies for so long and so frequently that everybody in my house thinks I invented them.”

The following recipes are from “Charlie Palmer’s American Fare,” by Charlie Palmer, who suggests serving the steak with a Silver Oak cabernet. “It is an easy-drinking young wine that doesn’t require 10 years of aging to make it an enjoyable quaff with grilled beef.”

Balsamic-Soy Grilled Tri-Tip Steak

Makes 6 servings

? cup olive oil

? cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large shallot, cut crosswise into thin slices

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

4 pounds tri-tip steak

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, and soy sauce in a resealable plastic bag large enough to hold the meat. Add the garlic, shallot, and thyme, seal, and shake the bag to blend.

Add the steak, reseal, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days, turning occasionally to ensure that all of the meat receives equal marination.

Preheat and oil the grill.

When the grill is very hot, remove the steak from the marinade, allowing the excess to drip off, and carefully place on the grill. It is best to do this by laying the steak on the grill from the front to the back. This will keep the hot oil from splattering back onto your hand. Sear for 3 minutes on one side, then turn and grill, turning occasionally, for an additional 25 minutes for medium-rare.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut the steak, crosswise against the grain, into thin slices. Serve immediately.

Grilled Romaine with Jack Cheese

Makes 6 Servings

3 hearts of romaine lettuce

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (approximately)

- Salt and cracked black pepper

? cup malt vinegar

½ cup crumbled dry Jack cheese (such as Vella Dry Jack)

Preheat and oil the grill.

Using a sharp knife, cut each romaine heart in half lengthwise, keeping the core intact.

Generously coat the entire lettuce with olive oil and season with salt and cracked black pepper. Place on the preheated grill, cut side down, and grill for about 4 minutes, turning once, or until slightly wilted and charred around the edges.

Using tongs, transfer the romaine halves to a serving platter, cut side up. Drizzle with the vinegar and sprinkle the crumbled cheese over the top. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Double Stuffed Potatoes

Makes 6 servings

6 large (about 1 pound each) Idaho potatoes

2 tablespoons canola oil (approximately)

½ pound smoky bacon, diced

3 cups (about 12 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1½ cups sour cream

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 tablespoons chopped scallions

- Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Using your hands, generously coat the potatoes with the canola oil. Randomly prick the skins with a kitchen fork. Place directly on the rack of the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the point of a small sharp knife easily pierces into the center. Place on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.

Place the diced bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of paper towels to drain.

Working with one potato at a time and using a serrated knife, horizontally cut about ½ inch off each potato. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the pulp from each potato, leaving about ¼ inch of potato remaining on the interior. You should now have a potato canoe. Place the scooped pulp into a medium mixing bowl and place the potato skins on a nonstick baking sheet.

Using a potato masher, smash the potato until very smooth. Stir in 1½ cups of the cheese along with the sour cream, butter, scallions and reserved bacon bits. Season with salt and pepper and stir until all of the ingredients have blended evenly.

Spoon the potato mixture back into the potato shells. Evenly sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the potatoes are very hot. Serve immediately.

Dad’s Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen small cookies

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups uncooked quick or old-fashioned oats

1 cup dried blueberries

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle and beat on medium until softened. Add the brown and granulated sugars and continue to beat on medium until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and beat to just blend. Add t he oatmeal and beat to incorporate.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the blueberries and the chocolate chips, if using.

Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown around the edges. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool

When cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

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