Mike’s Chicago Steak Seasoning

Mike's Chicago Steak Seasoning | Culinary Compost Recipes
This is my version of a classic steak rub. Sprinkle generously on both sides of your favorite cut of steak. Let stand at room temperature for 1/2 hour before grilling or pan searing.



1 tbs. Kosher salt
1 tbs. + 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. white cane sugar
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. roasted garlic granules
1.5 tsp. Paulie Spice hickory smoke seasoning and rub
1 tsp. lemon peel
1/8 tsp. citric acid



Measure the whole black peppercorns and place in a heavy mortar or spice mill. Process until they are coarsely ground. I prefer using a mortar as it allows more control.
Measure the other spices. Combine everything in a 1/2 pint canning jar. Cover with a lid and ring. Seal tight and shake well to incorporate.

Store in a cool dry place. Will keep for one year before the flavors start to fade. This seasoning will also work well on pork chops. Use only Kosher salt, or the texture will be wrong.

If you double this recipe, it will make just under 3/4 cup.

Montreal Steak Seasoning

This is a clone recipe of McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning, available in supermarkets.
Ensure that it has a coarse consistency by using the grind specified. I really love this on steaks and chops.


1 tbs. granulated garlic
1 tbs. sea salt
1 tbs. ground coriander
2 tbs. coarse-ground black pepper
1 tbs. ground cayenne pepper
1 tbs. ground dill weed
2 tbs. ground paprika
1 tbs. granulated onion

Mix well and store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight.
Keeps for up to 1 year.

Makes a little less than 2/3 cup.

Mesquite-Grilled Steak Chili with Chorizo and Poblano

This is a dark, smokey, semi-hot chili based on two of my other grilled steak chili recipes.  The main difference here is it also features chorizo sausage. If you cannot find the bulk chorizo, you can substitute ground pork and add a bit more cayenne pepper. The marinade is similar to my recipe for fajitas. It’s a lot of work but a guaranteed success for hungry guests.

In Arizona, mesquite wood is plentiful. It grows as a small scrub-tree and can be found everywhere. No such luck here in Wisconsin. I get my wood chips at a hardware store in three pound bags. The wood smoke is essential to the flavor of this dish.


For the Steak Marinade~

2 lbs. chuck or sirloin steak, slightly marbled
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 tbs. ancho chili powder
1 tbs. ground coriander seed
1 tbs. liquid smoke
2 oz. tequila
fresh-ground black pepper to taste

For the Chili Pot~

1 lb. ground bulk chorizo or pork
2 large spanish onions, peeled and halved
2 large poblano peppers
1 whole bulb garlic, cloves peeled and minced
1 14.5 oz. can black beans
1 14.5 oz. can pinto beans
1 cup strong black coffee
24 oz. beef broth or stock
1 32 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
4 tbs. tomatillo or lime juice
2 tbs. ancho chili powder
3.5 tbs. pure mild chimayo chili powder
1 tsp. salt, to taste
1 tbs. ground chipotle powder
3 tbs. ground cayenne powder, to taste
2 tbs. fresh ground cumin, from toasted seed
1 tbs. ground mexican oregano

Mesquite wood chips for grilling
Paper lunch bag


Prepare the marinade and steak 24 hours in advance. Tenderize the steak and place in a large ziplock freezer bag. Mix the lime juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, coriander, ancho powder, liquid smoke, tequila and black pepper in a bowl until combined and pour over steak. Seal tight and place in fridge, rotating at least twice. Ensure that the steak is evenly covered  with the marinade. The lime juice will break down the marbling and make it very tender.

Heat a large 5-quart cast-iron dutch oven over medium heat and brown the pork until no longer pink. Drain off the fat. Add the coffee, tomatoes and beef stock. Crush the tomatoes with a potato masher and bring to a low simmer.

Prepare your grill with enough charcoal for a medium-hot fire. When the coals are white-hot, level them, add the mesquite wood and place the onion (lightly brushed with olive oil) over direct heat on the grilling grate until they char slightly. Keep rotating them and then add the poblanos. Ensure you get a nice char on all sides of the peppers. The onion will eventually break apart, so take care not to let the pieces slip through the grilling grate onto the fire. Remove the onion and poblanos and set aside. Place the poblanos in a sealed paper lunch bag so the tough skins sweat off.

Add the steak to the grill and char both sides lightly with the cover on for smoking. You’ll want it medium-rare in the middle. Remove and reserve on a cutting board for at least ten minutes.

Back to the chili pot –  Rinse off the charred poblano skins under cold water. Seed and dice the pepppers. Dice the onion and add both to the pot. Add the dry spices. Cut the steak into 1/2″ chunks and remove the excess fat. Add to the pot with any remaining juices. Add the tomatillo or lime juice. Saute the garlic over low heat in a little olive oil and add to the pot.

Simmer for at least 3 hours to reduce, stirring occasionally. At the last half-hour, drain the beans and add to the pot.

Makes 4.75 quarts.

Flatiron Grilled Steak Chili

Here’s a milder version of my Fire Canyon Grilled Steak Chili, made with poblano peppers. The preparation is much the same. The combination of two kinds of beans, done until just tender add a nice contrast to the simmered beef. A wonderful recipe well worth the time needed to prepare.


3 lbs. skirt, flank or Angus sirloin steak
Mike’s Flatiron Rub
fresh-squeezed lime juice
XV olive oil
2 tsp. liquid smoke
2 bulbs garlic
1 32oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
3 cups beef stock
1 cup strong black coffee
2 huge Spanish onions
3 large poblano peppers
3 jalapeno peppers
1/3 cup pure mild chimayo chili powder
1 tbs. ground Mexican oregano
1 tbs. chipotle powder
1 tbs. cayenne powder
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
2 tbs. ground cumin (toasted from seed)
1 cup dry pinto beans
1 cup dry black beans
2 tbs. masa harina (cornmeal) used as thickener
Mesquite wood chips and real charcoal


The night before: Wash and sort the pinto and black beans. Remove any debris. Soak in water for 24 hours.
Pound the steaks on both sides using a meat tenderizer (cover with saran wrap). Generously sprinkle the flatiron rub on both sides and work it in to the meat.

In a bowl, mix 2 cups lime juice and about a half cup olive oil. Add 5 cloves mashed garlic. Add 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper. Add 1 tsp. liquid smoke. Mix well and pour into ziplock freezer bag. Add the steaks. Seal tight and double bag. Shake to ensure the steaks are evenly coated with the marinade. Marinate in your fridge for at least 24 hours.

When ready to start the chili, preheat a 22″ Weber grill with enough charcoal to cook the steaks over medium-high heat.
Prepare the mesquite chips for smoking by either soaking them in water for at least an hour -or- placing them in a sealed tinfoil pack (shiny side in) with holes poked in it.

While the grill is preheating, heat a 6-quart Dutch oven (cast-iron preferred) to medium and add the tomatoes, coffee and beef stock. Bring to a low simmer.

When the charcoal is white-hot add the mesquite chips to the coals. Cook the steaks quickly (a very hot, direct fire is essential) so they slightly char on each side. It’s fine if they are underdone, since they are going into the chili pot. Remove from the grill and set aside in a covered dish.

Peel and halve the onions and core the poblanos. Brush lightly with olive oil and place both on the grill over direct heat. Char lightly until the skin on the poblanos blisters. Rotate to ensure that they are evenly done, then remove from heat and place in a covered pan. The tough outer skin on the poblanos will blister off in about fifteen minutes. Rinse under cold water to remove the skin. Chop the onion and poblano in to 1/4″ pieces and add to the pot.

When cool, cut the steak into 1/2″ cubes and add to the pot. Increase the heat and bring to a slow boil.

Add 1 tsp. liquid smoke, the dry spices and 1 bulb peeled, minced garlic. Use the cayenne and chipotle powder to control the heat. (Toast the cumin on medium heat in a heavy pan until it just starts to smoke. Shake the pan to stir. Remove from heat and grind in a spice grinder or mortar. Do not burn it or it will taste bitter.)

Add the pinto and black beans. Add three seeded and chopped jalapenos.

Simmer for about three hours, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender, but not soft. You want a nice contrast to the texture of the beef. About halfway through, taste and correct the seasoning.  (alright – we all know you’ll be tasting it more than that, but at least try to use some reservation.)

Masa harina may be used during the last fifteen minutes of cooking to thicken up the chili.

Serves 6-8

Swiss Steak

My mom made this no-nonsense dish a lot when we were growing up. It was always a favorite. The ingredients list is simple and the flavor of the gravy with the potatoes and meat is an unbeatable combination.



4-6 tenderized top round steaks (usually marked “Swiss” on pkg.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder or granules to taste
4 tbs. butter for browning the steak
1 10.75 oz. can tomato soup (save the can to measure the water)
1 can hot water
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 sliced onion
2 ribs celery, cut on bias with greens
1 tbs. Worchestershire sauce



Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Add the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder or granules to a gallon-sized food storage bag. Mix well.  Coat the steaks evenly in the shaker bag and brown in a large cast-iron skillet with 4 tbs. butter, working in batches, two at a time.

Transfer to a covered 5-quart cast-iron dutch oven or Corel® dish. Mix remaining sauce and vegetable ingredients well. Cover steaks with the sauce and vegetables and a dash of salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Serve over boiled or mashed potatoes.

Serves 4-6.

Mike’s Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas

Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

No other dish comes close to the excitement and flair of a hot skillet of fajitas served for hungry guests. The aroma, sizzle and spice create a memorable experience that is perfect for just about any occasion – indoors or out. Fajitas are an Americanized version of Mexican flank steak (faja meaning “belt”.) Texans would probably like to lay claim to the fajita, but history gives credit to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border in the late 1930s or early 1940s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as skirt steak.

The fajita is truly Tex-Mex cuisine (a blending of Texas cowboy and Mexican panchero foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. Today, the term fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The only true fajitas, however, are made from skirt steak — and with that bit of history, enjoy the recipe. I’ve tweaked and niggled it for over ten years.



2 pounds skirt, flank or sirloin steak
1 huge spanish or red onion, cut in thin wedges
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 large green bell pepper or poblano, cut in strips (if using poblanos, you must remove the tough, outer skin)
1/4 cup washed fresh cilantro leaves (more for garnish, if desired)
Juice of one fresh lime
1 large ripe tomato
Kosher salt, to taste

Mike’s fajita rub
1 tsp. liquid smoke
Juice of 3 fresh limes (a very effective natural tenderizer)
4 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 cup XV olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

Wood charcoal (please, gas grills just don’t do this recipe justice.)
Mesquite wood chips
12×12″ aluminum foil square



Aggressively pierce the flank steak with a needle tenderizer on both sides, sprinkle generously with rub (working it in with your fingers) and place in large ziplock bag. Mix the marinade ingredients well in a bowl and add to the bag. DO NOT SLICE UP THE STEAK AT THIS POINT. YOU WILL DO THIS AFTER YOU GRILL IT. Coat well, remove the air and place the sealed bag in the fridge for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Rotate occasionally.

Prepare your mesquite chips for the grill by either soaking them in water for a couple hours OR by placing them dry in a wrapped aluminum foil packet with several holes punched in the side. Either method works well. If you cannot find mesquite chips you can also use hickory.

When ready to grill, cut up your vegetables and set aside so you don’t have to rush everything at once.

Prepare the grill with real wood charcoal; when they turn white, throw on the mesquite chips. Sprinkle a little more fajita rub on each side of the steak. Grill until it is medium-rare, 7-10 minutes. YOU WILL FINISH COOKING THE STEAK IN THE PAN, so don’t worry if it’s a tad pink or even red. This is a good thing.

Remove the steak from the grill and set aside on a cutting board for FIVE MINUTES. This step is critical, as the juices of the steak will draw back into the meat. If you cut it immediately, it would dry out and be tough.

Restoke the charcoal, if necessary. Bring a large, well-seasoned cast-iron pan up to HIGH heat. There really is no substitute for cast-iron with this recipe. The intense heat will warp or burn the non-stick coating off all other pans. I also don’t like using the smaller fajita-style pans like restaurants use, as they are ridiculously small for a family-sized portion prepared in one easy batch. I prefer to place the pan directly on the outdoor charcoal grilling grate.

Add about two tbs. of olive oil to the pan and sear the onion and peppers until slightly blackened. Stir once and add the garlic.

Using a very sharp chef knife, quickly slice up the meat in 1/4″ strips at a bias, ensuring the cuts are perpendicular to the grain of the meat. Add to the pan and stir once. Top with chopped tomato and lightly salt. Add the cilantro leaves and drizzle with lime juice. Remove from heat immediately and serve on tortilla shells with guacamole and your choice of salsa.

Serves 4-6


Don’t fret if you didn’t get it right the first time. This recipe is a lot of work and requires split-second timing during the cooking process. Practice makes perfect and you will ascend to grilling guru status in no time!

Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mike's Famous Guacamole | Culinary Compost

Preparing Roasted Poblano Peppers | Culinary Compost Recipes

Preparing the roasted poblano peppers.

Toasting Flour Tortillas over a Cast-Iron Comal | Culinary Compost

Toasting flour tortillas over a cast-iron comal.

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch | Culinary Compost

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch. The tough outer skin is unpalatable and should be removed before baking.


Chicken-Fried Steak with White Gravy

From most references, the history of this recipe originated somewhere in Texas during the Depression Era. Other accounts indicate that it came from German immigrants who settled in the Lone Star state around 1844-50; the recipe based on the Austrian/German classic, wiener schnitzel.

The first written reference to “chicken-fried steak” appeared around 1952. This is an entirely-Southern inspired dish which is very economical to prepare. Serve with mashed potatoes and grilled corn-on-the-cob. Enjoy!


1/3 cup vegetable oil or 1/2 stick real butter
2 lb. tenderized Angus cube or round steak
Meat tenderizer to coat steak
1 cup all-purpose flour for dredge (reserve 3 tbs. after for gravy)
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp. salt (or Lawry’s seasoned salt), to taste
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tsp. garlic powder
4 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups milk, warmed to room temperature
1 small onion, cut in rings
Dash of Worchestershire sauce


Put the flour, corn starch, garlic powder, salt cayenne and black pepper in a shallow dish reserved for dredging the meat. Mix well.

Beat the four eggs and place in another shallow dish large enough to coat each side of the steaks.

Round steak by nature is a slightly tougher cut of meat. Try to buy round steak that has been run through a tenderizer by your butcher. If this is not possible, you can use a meat mallet and pound each side. If the steaks are large, cut each in half. Sprinkle both sides with meat tenderizer and set aside on a plate and allow to warm up to room temperature.

Preheat a large 12″ cast-iron skillet (please, no other skillet will produce the same results with this recipe) to medium heat and lightly spray with non-stick cooking oil.

Dredge the steaks in flour, then the egg (ensuring that they are evenly coated) then back into the flour and place in the skillet with enough vegetable oil or butter to just coat the bottom surface. Increase heat to medium high and brown each side about 4-5 minutes. Work in batches, cooking two steaks at a time. Add more butter or oil if needed. Fry the sliced onion until lightly carmelized.

If the heat is too high, the batter will come off the steaks. Turning them only once will ensure the batter sticks.

When the steaks and onion are done, remove from skillet, reduce the heat to low and reserve the steaks on a baker’s rack over a cookie sheet placed in your oven at 200 degrees. Keep the onions covered in a small dish for serving.


In the same skillet, reserve three tbs. of the pan drippings. Add three tbs. of the reserved seasoned flour and three tbs of butter. Stir with a spatula until mixed. Slowly add the milk and a dash of worchestershire sauce.

Increase heat and bring gravy to a low simmer, stirring constantly with a wide spatula; breaking up any lumps and deglazing the skillet. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. When thickened, transfer the gravy to a serving dish.

When ready, spoon gravy over steak and mashed potatoes.

Serves 4-6.

NOTE: For more flavor, add 1 tbs. of rendered bacon fat to the pan when frying the steaks. It will create a richer gravy.