The Great Indoors: Aussie gives tips on ribs, shrimp

Don’t be surprised if Paul “Awesome Aussie” Mackay greets you at his booth at Happy Harry’s Ribfest with a huge elk-handled knife.

“We keep it around for when they start playing around with us,” he says.

By “playing around,” he means Americans who, upon hearing Mackay’s Australian accent, can’t help but quote the 1986 movie “Crocodile Dundee.”

“When they say, ‘That’s not a knife, THAT’s a knife!’ we pull this thing out! It gets a laugh!” he says.

But Mackay and his crew aren’t just about the giggles. The crew from down under has been in the rib business for 25 years and has earned countless first-place awards at rib festivals around the region, most recently walking away with a first-place finish at Sioux Fall’s fest.

But it’s not just ribs for Mackay. Awesome Aussies mixes their slow roasted ribs with grilled shrimp, something he calls the “original surf and turf.”

“How could we not serve shrimp on the barbie?” he laughs.

He says ribs and shrimp are the perfect combination, but what’s interesting is they involve cooking methods that couldn’t be much different from one another. Here are Mackay’s tips for making the best ribs and shrimp north of Sydney:

For the ribs

Try smoking them with cherry or applewood. It makes for a milder, less pungent flavor than hickory or mesquite wood.

Look for sauces with a fruit twist. He says fruit-based sauces are less acidic and add a sweeter flavor to the meaty rib. He says their Raspberry Chipotle Sauce is a huge hit in Fargo.

“It excites your tastebuds without being crazy hot!” he says.

Think low and slow. Mackay says by far the biggest mistake people make is trying to rush their ribs.

“People need to remember, ribs are a tougher meat. It takes a while for them to tenderize. It takes longer than your think, just slow down!”

Indirect heat is the way to go. Mackay says to heat your woodchips on one side of the grill and the ribs on the opposite side over zero heat. Smoke them for four to five hours (If you must do it in the oven, don’t forget to season the ribs then put it in a 225 degree oven for 2½ hours).

For the shrimp

Grill from frozen. Mackay says grilling from frozen helps the shrimp maintain its moisture.

Cook until it just turns white. Going much longer will make the shrimp tough.

Direct is best. Whereas ribs are low and slow, shrimp is high and fast. Cook them over direct heat for three to five minutes.

Mackay says the meal is topped off perfectly with their Australian cornbread made with creamed corn.

“Oh, it’s so good! It just melts in your mouth!”

And you just know they have the perfect knife with which to cut it.

The Great Indoors: Grilled fruit transforms scones into sweet treat

I never got scones. I mean, I bought scones and ate scones, but I never really got them. I didn’t understand the appeal of a pastry that was so dense and dry it might better work as a door stop than a breakfast dish.

But after hanging out with Casey Steele, owner of Square One Rental Kitchens, I’ve come to realize scones can be rich, moist and out-of-this world good.

We decided to take the grilled fruit that we learned how to make on last week’s Great Indoors and incorporate them into our scone batter. The result was a fruity and delicious breakfast or coffee time treat.

Grilled Fruit Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Zc cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut up into chunks
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg

-½-¾ cup grilled fruit, cut into small pieces and frozen (could also substitute for raisins, cranberries, chocolate chips … anything!)
-Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt with a whisk until thoroughly combined, or place in a stand mixer and use paddle attachment.
-Cut in butter using the mixer, or pastry cutter. Mix until coarse crumbs appear (a little larger than a pea). Do not over mix.
-Combine sour cream and egg together in a separate bowl until thoroughly combined.
-Add sour cream/egg mixture to your flour/butter mixture until moist. Add in grilled fruit, or mix-in of choice.
-Place on floured surface and knead until it begins to hold together.
-Cut dough in half. Take one half and form into a disc. Flatten into a circle approximately 1 inch thick. Cut into 6 triangles. Repeat with second half of dough.
-Place scones on baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 for 17-20 minutes. You’ll know they are done when they are golden on the outside and the center of the scone gives a little resistance when pushed on.

Top with a simple glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
Zest of 1 lime
Coconut milk

-Combine until you get a slightly thick mixture and pour over slightly cooled scones. Let glaze harden and enjoy!

The Lost Italian: Easy potato salad

Tony Nasello shares with us his mother-in-law’s famous potato salad recipe with few and easy ingredients, Yukon gold potatoes, scallions and a apple cider vinaigrette.

Marilyn’s Potato Salad

Serves: 6 to 8


-3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
-1 bunch of scallions (green onions), sliced into thin rounds (remove the roots & top inch of greens)
-1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-2 teaspoons kosher salt
-1 teaspoon crushed black pepper


In a medium bowl, whisk together the cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper until emulsified (well combined). Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Boil the potatoes whole in salted water (1 tablespoon) for 15-20 minutes, until barely tender when pierced through with a fork. As soon as you can handle them, cut into one-inch chunks and place into a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes, then the scallions and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature (ideal).

The Great Indoors: End summer meals with grilled fruits

With Memorial Day just around the corner, many Americans will fire up the grill for hot dogs, burgers, steaks and whatever else looks and tastes good with char marks.

More often than not, when it’s time for dessert, the grill is left to smolder and die out. But Chef Tim Rosendahl says, “Not so fast.”

He likes to continue the grilling feast into the night with a dessert that’s both sweet and more nutritious than most. Grilling fruit changes its texture and flavor profile. It’s sweeter than eating the fruit raw and with a few special touches can be an elegant end to a meal served in flip flops.

Grilled Pineapple with Dark Rum Sauce and Maple Ice Cream

1 pineapple, ripe. Peel outer skin off and cut off base
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup real maple syrup
½ cup dark or spiced rum
½ cup orange juice
1 quart vanilla bean ice cream
1 cup walnuts, roasted or toasted

-Place pineapple in resealable plastic bag with vanilla, rum and orange juice. Let marinate for 24 hours.
-Take your favorite vanilla ice cream, softened, and put into mixer. Add maple syrup and toasted walnuts. Freeze for 24 hours.
-After 24 hours, put excess fruit marinade in a sauce pan and reduce to a glaze. Do not cook too long or you will have hard candy.
-Cut pineapple in ¼-inch slices and remove core. Place slices on hot grill until they have nice grill marks. Or roast the whole pineapple by wrapping with tin foil and placing in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes.
-Serve pineapple with maple ice cream. Garnish with toasted walnuts and rum sauce.

Grilled Brown Sugar Bananas

6 medium bananas
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 whole lemon, juice and zest
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 ounces banana liqueur

-Heat grill to 450.
-Cut bananas lengthwise in half, then cut each half lengthwise in half, so you have four pieces.
-Brush bananas with marinade liquid (butter, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, brown sugar and liqueur).
-Grill bananas until they have grill marks.
-Place remaining marinade on stove and reduce to a glaze.
-Serve bananas with a fruit sorbet of choice, topped with the marinade glaze.

The Lost Italian: Limoncello

Tony Nasello shows us how to make the perfect summer beverage that has the sweet, refreshing taste made for those warm days by the lake.



-15 medium lemons
-2 750-milliliter bottles of 100-proof vodka (the higher proof will keep the alcohol from freezing)
-2 cups water
-2 cups sugar


-Microplane grater or vegetable peeler
-1 one-gallon glass (Mason) jar
-Bottles for storing finished liqueur


Soak the lemons in warm water for 10 minutes to clean, then wipe dry with a towel. Use the grater or vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemons, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Set the zested lemons aside for use in another recipe.

Place the zest in the Mason jar and add one bottle of vodka. Seal tightly, label with today’s date and the words “First Stage.” Store in a cupboard and allow the mixture to steep for 10 to 40 days. The longer it steeps, the better it will taste.

After 10 to 40 days, strain the mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth into a large bowl, gently pressing the zest to extract all the flavored liquid. (You may need to strain more than once to remove all the zest.) Add the second bottle of vodka.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Remove from heat.

Once cooled, add the syrup to the vodka mixture. Use a funnel to pour the liqueur back into the Mason jar. Have another, smaller jar on hand in case of overflow. Label the jar with today’s date or the date it will be ready to serve, and the words “Second Stage.” Return to the cupboard for 10 to 40 days.

When the limoncello is ready, store it in the freezer so it is always chilled before serving.