Friday, May 27, 2011

NRA 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bacon Obsession

This looked like a lot of work but I’ve been hearing so much about bacon jam lately, I had to make it.

Three Acres in Little Italy uses Bacon Jam on their burgers. Everyone I talk to who has had one said that it is totally amazing.

Worth all the hype? I really loved it and it added an interesting texture to the Bruschetta below.

Bon Appetit!

Bacon Jam

1 pound bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp brown sugar
Tabasco sauce to taste

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, fry the bacon in batches. Remove the bacon from the pan, and pour off all but 1 tbps of the bacon fat (bacon fat can be reserved for other purposes, like a pie crust)

Turn the pan heat to medium high. Add the onion to the pan and fry until translucent. Add the minced garlic, frying until fragrant.

Return the bacon to the pan, along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Stir occasionally, and add 1/4 cup of water every 25 minutes or so.

Once cooked down, puree the jam in a food processor until it reaches your desired consistency.

Bacon Jam Bruschetta

Bacon Jam
Baguette, sliced
Cream cheese or goat cheese
Salad greens
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Fresh salsa topping (fresh tomato, onion and cilantro chopped fine)

Spread the cream cheese on the baguette slices. Top with bacon jam.

Dress the greens with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and fresh salsa.

Place a small amount on the bread.

Bacon and Habanero Infused Vodka

I can’t wait to try this recipe when it finally comes to a head. I will use it in a Bloody Mary next weekend after the Restaurant Show.

So who is showing up for the celebration? 27 Foodies and still counting.
Bon Appetit!

6 strips of bacon
3 habanero chili peppers
2 serano chile peppers
1 liter good quality vodka

Add strips of bacon to a dry, cold, large skillet. Warm the skillet over low heat. Cook bacon until crispy, flipping the bacon several times throughout the process. Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside to cool.

Remove the stems from each chili pepper and slice in half lengthwise. Add peppers (with seeds) to a large, airtight jar. Once cooled, add bacon to the same jar. Fill the jar with vodka to cover the bacon and peppers. Seal the jar and let steep for 7 days in the refrigerator.

After 7 days, strain the vodka through a cheese cloth lined fine mesh basket strainer into a clean jar or bottle. If you see any major particles floating in the vodka, strain a second time. Discard the bacon and peppers. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 1 liter.

P.S. Letting the vodka steep with the chili peppers for 7 days will result in an extremely spicy infusion. If you have a low heat tolerance, would recommend steeping for a shorter period of time. You can start tasting half way through and strain the infusion once you reach your desired heat level.

Keep in mind that this vodka will be used in a bloody mary. You want it to be overly spicy because the tomato juice will turn down the heat level a bit.

After Notes: This vodka was so spicy and so good that I plan on making another batch this weekend for Memorial Day Bloody Mary's.

Chardonnay Day – May 26

I am celebrating my favorite wine – Chardonnay – on International Chardonnay Day, May 26th!

This is a world-wide celebration. Wine lovers from around the world will be tasting and posting all sorts of experiences using the #Chardonnay hash tag on all social media sites. This a 24-hour celebration in order for wine lovers in different time zones to share a glass together.

I’ll be celebrating with one of my personal favorites- 2009 Pere et Fils by Laurent Miquel. This is a really great French Chardonnay that I have become passionate about. Outside of the superb taste, this Chardonnay cashes in at $10.00 a bottle.

And speaking of $10 a bottle, this Beringer was on sale today for $5.99 a bottle. It was better than good and not quite excellent…an every day wine and just the brand I want to have on a rainy Sunday night with no plans...just me and 60 Minutes!

Sweet and Bon Appetit!

Cochon New Orleans

This was the first time that I had a lot of these ingredients in gumbo and don’t know why I did not try some of them before today.

This recipe by Chef Link and co-owner Chef Stephen Stryjewski, embrace the finest New Orleans flavors and the combination of pork, blackeyed peas and greens simply cannot be surpassed.

So why am I cooking Gumbo in May? It was 42 degrees this weekend here in Chicago.

Congrats to Chef Stryjewski who won the Best Chef of the South at the 2011 James Beard Awards.

In prep bowls, measure and chop all of the ingredients before you start cooking, It will make this recipe a lot easier to put together.

Be patient when making the roux. Remember, practice makes perfect and bring it to a darker level than I did – almost black. I have a tendency of pulling it off the stove too soon.

Bon Appetit!

Blackeye Pea and Pork Gumbo

1 ½ cup flour
1 ½ cup oil
2 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green pepper
1 cup diced celery
3 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1 ½ gallon pork or chicken stock
1 ½ pound okra sliced crosswise ½ inch wide and seared in lard until lightly browned
2 cups cooked blackeyed peas (cook in chicken stock with large pieces of mirepoix that can be removed after cooking)
2 cups bacon braised greens (collards or mustards cooked in bacon and onions with sugar, vinegar, hot sauce and salt and pepper
2-3# Pork butt (raw weight) fully smoked and chopped


File 2 Tablespoons
Thyme 1 Tablespoon
Chile powder 1 Tablespoon
Paprika 1 Tablespoon
White pepper 1 Tablespoon
Black pepper 2 Tablespoon
Cayenne pepper 1 Tablespoon
Bay leaves 3 each

Make a dark roux using the oil and flour.

As soon roux is the right color (just past red and turning back to brown but not scorched or smelling really burnt) add the diced vegetables and garlic

Add the stock and stirring very frequently bring up to a simmer. Simmer for about 1hour stirring lots. Skim all of the fat that separates out.

Taste the gumbo. It should not taste pasty and like the roux anymore. If it does you may need to add more stock up to ½ gallon. This is different every time depending on the exact measurement of flour, strength of starch in the flour, degree of cooking of the roux among other things so add the stock in stages and let it cook and come together before adding more.

When the gumbo is the right consistency add the okra, blackeyed peas, greens, pork and seasoning. Allow to return to a simmer and adjust the seasoning. Serve with steamed rice or potato salad.

Grilled Pineapple

Grill your meat this summer and pile on the pineapple salsa. No better way to get a healthy dose of fruit and vegetables and enjoy a great summer meal.

You can grill it and serve it or make it into a relish to serve on the side.

Use your imagination and look for pineapples when they are on sale in your grocery. I have found them for as little as $2.99.

Bon Appetit!

1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
2 tablespoons finely chopped purple onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper, optional
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon honey
dash ground red pepper, cayenne or chipotle
2 teaspoons finely minced jalapeno pepper, optional
juice of 1 fresh lime, about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients; cover and refrigerate for an hour or more to blend flavors. Serve with grilled or broiled fish, chicken, or pork.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

Mercat a la Planxa

I ducked into Mercat a la Planxa for breakfast on Saturday. I had heard about the Blackstone Benedict since Chef Garces won me over last year. His dish at Chicago Gourmet 2010 was the best in show.

Chef Garces uses fresh ingredients in the most unique combinations and this was no exception. The base of these benedicts was a simple slice of toast and did not take away from the stars of the show – the Chorizo and the sauce. I love the sauce and this one was truly exceptional. It was all in the truffle oil.

You would think that the Chorizo would be hot from the amount of smoked red peppers they add to it. I would call Chorizo spicy but not hot…just spicy enough to be complex and add a really interesting flavor to the eggs.

In Mexico, I made Chorizo with ground pork and beef. You cure them over night with a little vinegar and a lot of chili powder.

I’m sure that he used a very thin slice of dried Chorizo instead of the Chorizo that I cooked this morning but I cut a super thin slice as well and it was just as good.

I did however use a thicker piece of bread.

Bon Appetit!

Truffle Hollandaise Sauce

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
Pinch cayenne
Pinch salt
About 2 teaspoons truffle oil

In the container of a blender, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice and cayenne. Cover, and blend for about 5 seconds.

Place the butter in a glass measuring cup. Heat butter in the microwave for about 1 minute, or until completely melted and hot. Set the blender on high speed, and pour the butter into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream. It should thicken almost immediately. Add truffle oil and salt to taste

Keep the sauce warm until serving by placing the blender container in a pan of hot tap water.

Brioche and Pork Belly With Eggs And Lemon Relish

I made this recipe from a deli pork belly that I got a Fumare Meats in the Chicago French Market. I had leftover Lemon Relish from last week so I improvised this morning at breakfast.

The verdict: Delicious X 2! This relish is so good I want to try it on everything…including Pizza!

Here is the link:

Lemon Relish

Bon Appetit!


These can be filled with any leftovers you have on hand. I have only recently come to enjoy the fresh taste of these Mexican treats.

Fill them with meat, cheese or any kind of fruit and you’ll win over everyone who thinks an Empanada is just another Empanada.

Bon Appetit!

1lb puff pastry
1 egg beaten
½ cup sugar

With a rolling pin extend the puff pastry until you get a thin sheet. It is easier to work with puff pastry when it is cool.

Using a round large cookie cutter or plastic container, cut puff pastry circles.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Using a pastry brush apply some egg around the edge of the circle and then put some filling in the middle.

Fold the circle and press the edges.

With a fork press the edges to completely seal them.

Apply more egg on top for coloring and sprinkle some sugar on top.

Line empanadas on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges start turning golden brown.

Let them cool on a baking rack before eating or storing them and enjoy!

Tamales With Rice

Got A great recipe for Tamales with Rice? Send it to me for a post next month.
Bon Appetit!

Phyllo Tarts

It’s the season so fill these tarts with anything from asparagus to rubarb and they will be delightful.

Many people serve these for breakfast but you can enjoy them at any meal or for a dessert.

Bon Appetit!

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Dust a working surface lightly with flour.

Unfold the chilled puff pastry and flatten it with your hands; gently repair any tears, pinching the dough lightly with your fingers.

Roll it out slightly with a flour-dusted rolling pin. Using a 3-inch diameter cookie cutter or biscuit cutter and cut 10 disks from the dough.

Arrange the disks on parchment paper-lined baking sheet(s). Using the tip of a paring knife, score a circle about 1/4 to 1/2-inch inside the edges of the disk. The dough is quite pliable, so you are essentially drawing a line with the knife tip. Prick the pastry disks inside the scored lines all over with the tines of a fork. This will keep the center of the disks from puffing up.

Spoon the filling of your choice into the centers of the pastry disks.

Brush tops of the disks with egg wash.

Bake the tarts for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Mini Eggrolls

These mini-eggrolls are a really good finger food for summer get-togethers.

I first had these eggrolls at Ben Pao’s Restaurant in Chicago and fell in love with them. The chef told me that the secret to making them really crispy is to squeeze the cabbage perfectly dry after you steam them.

I love them because they are vegetarian and super light as eggrolls go. So perfect for that meatless Monday dinner!

Bon Appetit!

Mini Eggrolls

1 tablespoon sesame oil
Slice of ginger, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water
1/2 cup carrot, grated
1/4 pound Napa cabbage shredded - steamed, squeezed dry, and finely chopped
Chinese chili paste, to taste
50 Square egg roll wrappers
Egg yolk
Oil for deep frying

Heat sesame oil and saute ginger 30 seconds. Add scallions and saute 30 seconds. Stir in soy sauce and evaporate a second. Stir in eggs and stir to softly scramble. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl; stir in carrots, steamed napa cabbage and chili paste to taste.

Set each wrapper at such an angle that the points of the wrapper face north, south, east and west. Set a bit of filling in bottom third of wrapper. Bring bottom point over filling and tuck it underneath; roll the filling up a bit to secure tightly. Bring right point of wrapper over filling to form a neat right angle; bring left side of wrapper over right side to form a left right angle, and dab this top point with egg yolk. Roll the egg roll up to secure tightly. The egg yolk will seal the wrapper to itself.

To fry: Heat the oil and deep fry long enough for the rolls to float to surface; turning them, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Drain immediately on double thickness of paper towels. Once drained, set on a rack so bottom does not get soggy.

Dipping Sauce: Mix up your favorite. Everyone loves them dipped in something different.

Vive la différence!

Cherry Tart

The first thing that my mother made for my dad after they were married was a cherry pie. She, however, forgot to take the pits out of the cherries so this pie has been a lot of laughter in my family as well as a much-loved dessert.

Cherries are one of my favorite stone fruits and there is nothing better for a spring dessert than an easy, free form cherry tart.

Bon Appetit!

8 oz unsalted butter, softened
4 oz powdered sugar
1 egg
12 oz flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and mix well.

Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined. Wrap in plastic/ Press to create a flat disk. Refrigerate for 6 hours.

Cut circles of sugar dough with a large cookie cutter - 8” diameter.

Place some pitted cherries in the middle, sprinkle with sugar and a dot of butter to top off.

Pull in the outside edges of the dough towards the center. Does not have to be perfect since this is rustic.

Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until dough golden brown.

The Farmers Markets...Week II

Saturday was cold and rainy but it didn’t stop me from getting a peek at what the farmers and the bakers hauled in again this week.

Love the fact that I will probably not have to go to the grocery store until winter.

Celebrating the season this week and every week until the snow flies!

Bon Appetit!

Chicago Gourmet 2011 - September 23-25 - Millennium Park

Where else can you eat at so many of Chicago’s power restaurants in just one sitting?
Just look at the great line up of chefs for 2011...

Ted Allen, Food and Wine Ambassador for Discover Wine with Robert Mondavi
Rodelio Aglibot, Rodelio Aglibot
Luis Arturo "Artie" Aucaquizhpi, Gene & Georgetti
Katherine August, Branch 27
Jerome Bacle, Courtright's Restaurant
Ariel Bagadlong, Aja
Jimmy Bannos, Heaven On Seven and The Purple Pig

Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig

Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/XOCO
Greg Biggers, Café des Architectes at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
Viraj Borkar, Vermilion
Graham Elliot Bowles, graham elliot/GrahamwichFrancis Brennan, L2O
Frank Brunacci, Sixteen
George Bumbaris, Prairie Grass Café/ Prairie Fire
Niall Campbell, Firefly Grill
John Coletta, Quartino
Federico Comacchio, Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush
Judy Contino, Bittersweet Pastry Shop and Cafe
Chris Curren, Blue 13 Restaurant & Bar
Jesse DeGuzman, Sunda New Asian
Rochelle DuBridge, Vie
Stephen Dunne, Paramount
Kendal Duque, The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant
Greg Elliot, Lockwood at the Palmer House Hilton
Dirk Flanigan, Henri/ The Gage
Jo-Marie Frigo, Nonna Santi's Biscotti
Dirk and Terry Fucik, Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Shop
Meg Galus, Café des Architectes at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
Gale Gand, Tru

 Jose Garces, Mercat a la Planxa
Luigi Garcia, RIVA Restaurant
John Gatsos, Tavern on Rush
Carlos Gaytan, Mexique
James Gottwald, Rockit Bar & Grill
Mark Grosz, Oceanique
Jeffrey Hedin, LeopoldPerry Hendrix, Custom House
Kevin Hickey, Four Seasons Hotel
John Hogan, Keefer’s
Tony Hu, Lao Szechuan
Dan Huebschmann, Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House
Jun Ichikawa, Japonais Restaurant
Stephanie Izard, The Girl & The Goat
Paul Katz, Harry Caray's Restaurant Group
Michael Kornick, MK The Restaurant
Sarah Kosikowski, Sixteen
Eddie Lakin, Edzo's Burger Shop
Mariano Lanfranconi, 5411 Empanadas
Gilbert Langlois, Chalkboard
Ryan LaRoche, NoMI
Bernie Laskowski, Park Grill
Chan Le, Le Colonial
Phil Manolis, Bacardi at the Park
Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia
Anthony Martin, Tru
Justin Martin, Uncommon Ground
Shawn McClain, Green Zebra/ Sage Restaurant
Michael McDonald, one sixtyblue
Carrie Nahabedian, NAHA
Martial Noguier, bistronomic
Jessica Oloroso, Black Dog GelatoTerry Opalek and Michael Frontier, Terry's Toffee
Chris Pandel, The Bristol
Mark Payne, deca RESTAURANT + BAR
Nicole Pederson, C-House
Evan Percoco, Cibo Matto
Ryan Pitts, RL Restaurant
Tony Priolo, Piccolo Sogno
Patty Rothman, More Cupcakes
Arun Sampanthavivat, Arun’s
Mario Santiago, May St. Cafe & Catering
Patrick Sheerin, The Signature Room at the 95th
Michael Shrader, Epic
Dan Smith, HEARTY
Mark Sparacino, Prosecco
Sarah Stegner, Pairie Grass Café/ Prairie Fire
Carly Sullivan, Henri/ The Gage
Giuseppe Tentori, G.T. Fish & Oyster/ Boka Restaurant
Shin Thompson, Bonsoiree
Melissa Trimmer, C-House
Dan Tucker, SUSHISAMBA rio
Jared Van Camp, Old Town Social
Paul Virant, Vie
Randy Waidner, Gibsons Restaurant Group
Scott Walton, Markethouse Restaurant and Bar
Jared Wentworth, Longman and Eagle
Keith Willis, SugarToad Restaurant at the Hotel Arista
Kady Yon, Boka Restaurant
Shelley Young, The Chopping Block
Celeste Zeccola, Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Café
Randy Zweiban, Province

Tickets will be on sale soon. This event sold out early last year so don't miss out. You'll learn so much about the food and wine scene in Chicago you'll want to go out every night!

Chicago Gourmet 2011
Book a room reservation now at my favorite hotel - The Blackstone.

Blackstone Hotel

See You There...

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Crispy Pork Belly Sandwiches with Meyer Lemon Relish

I love pork belly and believe it or not, I have a hard time finding it here in Chicago. I have to go to the markets in Chinatown or off Argyle Street to find it… that was until yesterday.

When I was at Chicago French Market, my ever-so-knowledgeable guy at Fumare Meats sent me on a field trip about 10 blocks west to Peoria Packing to buy pork belly.

I wanted to try this recipe from Matthew Dillon, owner of Sitka and Spruce in the new Melrose Market in Seattle where I am headed next month.

Photo: Peoria Packing

Peoria Packing – at 1300 West Lake Street- is truly a carnivore's dream. Popular with barbecue addicts, restaurateurs, and south-siders, Peoria Packing also has in-house custom butchering.

I walked into a refrigerator - a room that was literally freezing and stacked high with meat. If you want cows feet, pork skin, lamb intestines, pork cheeks or oxtails or anything else for that matter, you can get it here.

It was crazy busy – this was Saturday afternoon. If you want to buy in bulk or if you are entertaining this is your first and only stop. I hauled home 8 pounds of pork belly for a mere $1.98 a pound.

On the way home and just to get in the mood, I stopped by the Saigon Sister’s new restaurant at 567 West Lake to enjoy some Bahn Boa with hoisin glazed pork belly.

Lunch has me already planning my dinner here where Matthew Eversman, Chicago’s Breakout Chef of the Year, makes roasted pork belly with a 5:10 egg, sambal brussels sprouts and broken rice (broken rice cooks "stickier" - which may be another reason it is preferred) that I have heard is simply to die for.

When I am in Seattle next month, I’ll stop by Sitka and Spruce to let Matthew Dillon know that his recipe was definitely worth all the effort. I loved this recipe but modified it just a little by only letting the meat sit in the rub for about 4 hours since I was on a two day schedule and this was a three day recipe.

Bon Appetit!

1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 bay leaves
2 quarts boiling water
2 quarts ice water
4 pounds boneless, skinless, meaty fresh pork belly, fat trimmed to 3/4 inch and scored
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 whole clove
1 allspice berry
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 celery rib, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken broth
Whole-grain mustard and chopped frisée, for serving
8 ciabatta rolls, split and toasted

In a large pot, combine the salt, sugar, bay leaves and boiling water; stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the ice water and let cool. Add the pork belly and refrigerate overnight.

Drain the pork belly and pat dry with paper towels. In a small skillet, combine the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, cumin, clove and allspice and toast over moderate heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes; transfer to a spice grinder and let cool completely. Coarsely grind the spices and rub them all over the pork belly. Transfer to a platter, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Rinse the pork, scraping off most of the spices, and pat dry. Heat a large, deep ovenproof skillet until hot. Add the pork, fatty side down, and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned on both sides, 8 minutes. Scatter the garlic, onion, celery and carrots on either side of the pork belly and cook until softened slightly, 5 minutes. Add the wine and boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover and braise in the oven for 2 hours, until the meat is very tender but not falling apart. Transfer the pork to a platter and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then cut each slice in half so it will fit on the ciabatta.

In a large nonstick skillet, fry the pork slices in batches over moderately high heat, turning once, until crisp, about 4 minutes.

Spread mustard on the roll bottoms and top with the sliced pork belly, frisée and a generous dollop of Meyer Lemon Relish.

Close the sandwiches, cut in half and serve.

Meyer Lemon Relish

1 large Meyer lemon—peeled, peel very thinly sliced
1 shallot—1/2 minced, 1/2 very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop the lemon pulp, discarding any seeds, and transfer to a bowl. Add the lemon peel, minced and sliced shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, chives, parsley, olive oil and crushed red pepper to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Make Ahead The relish can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Salt-Crusted Fish

I’ve cooked beef in a salt crust before so I was curious to see how this fish would turn out when I saw the technique in this month’s issue of Fine Cooking.

My friend Maria remembers her grandmother making salt crusted fish when she was a young girl in Italy. In fact, most regions in the south of Italy cook fish this way.

Surprisingly, the fish doesn’t taste salty at all. In fact the salt crust seals in moisture essentially steaming the fish. The result: perfectly cooked, moist fish. I cooked mine for 35 minutes.

This is one of the easiest and best methods of cooking fish and so healthy.

Bon Appetit!

Salt-Crusted Fish
2-pound bass, insides removed
2 thin orange slices
2 sprigs rosemary
2 teaspoon olive oil
6 cups kosher salt
4 egg whites
½ cup water

Rinse the fish well, inside and out and dry.

Stuff the fish with the orange and rosemary. Rub the skin of the fish with the olive oil, which will help with removing the skin after the fish is cooked.

In a large bowl, combine the salt, egg whites and water. Place a bed of salt on a rimmed baking sheet about the size of the fish. Lay the fish on the salt and cover the fish with the remaining salt mixture.

Roast the fish for 30 – 45 minutes. Remove for the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

To serve, tap the crust with the back of a large metal spoon to break it. Remove the salt and use a pastry brush to remove the remaining salt. Use a spoon to scrape the skin off the top of the fish and push it to the side.

Run the spoon along the spine to separate the fillet from the bones. Remove the fillet to a serving plate. When the top fillet is gone, grab the tail end of the bones and pull them out, revealing the bottom fillet. Discard the aromatics from the fish and use the spoon to remove the bottom fillet.

Fennel, Green Olive, and Mint Relish
by Tony Rosenfeld

This tangy, crunchy relish is an appetizing difference to the salt-roasted fish.

I liked the flavor and texture of this relish so much I am going to use it instead of tartar sauce which has a lot more calories and fat with its mayonnaise base.

1 medium fennel bulb (about 3/4 lb.), tough outer layers removed, cut into 1/8-inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/3 cup pitted green olives (like picholine), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1 Tbs. nonpareil (small) capers, rinsed and chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint

In a large bowl, toss the fennel, olives, onion, capers, and 3/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Let sit until the fennel starts to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, and mint and season to taste with more salt and pepper.

French Fries

To me, there is no better food than French fries. If I had to give up everything, French fries would be one of the last things on my list and is one of my top cheat foods.

It’s easy to make perfect fries - the real challenge is to:

1) Fry or double fry – many theories out there and not sold on any one just yet.

2) find the perfect dipping sauce – here is the growing list

Bon Appetit!


Curry ketchup
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp curry

2 garlic cloves
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt using a large heavy knife. Whisk together yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a bowl. Combine oils and add, a few drops at a time, to yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified. (If mixture separates, stop adding oil and continue whisking until mixture comes together, then resume adding oil.)

Whisk in garlic paste and season with salt and pepper. If aïoli is too thick, whisk in 1 or 2 drops of water. Chill, covered, until ready to use.

Black Truffle Mayonnaise
1 large egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
4 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons chopped black winter truffles

In a food processor, place egg yolk, minced garlic, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Blend together. With the processor still running, slowly drizzle in truffle oil, followed by the canola oil to desired consistency. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Take mayonnaise out of processor and place in a bowl. Gently fold in black truffles. Refrigerate immediately. The mayonnaise will hold up to one week.

Ketchup with Tabasco sauce

Hot or chili sauce



Bearnaise sauce
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons white wine
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 large shallot, about 2 tablespoons worth, minced
3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
4 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, minced (Unless using food processor)
3/4 cup unsalted butter

Combine wine, vinegar, and shallot in top of a double boiler. Simmer until reduced by half and then let mixture cool.

Once cooled, place mixture, egg yolks, pepper, garlic salt, and tarragon leaves in food processor (or blender). Blend for about 10 seconds.

Melt butter in microwave for a 1:15, or until slightly bubbling, but be careful not to burn! Then remove the center stopper from the food processor (or blender) and slowly pour the butter through the opening while the motor is running. This process should take about 30 seconds.

Process for another 10 seconds after all the butter has been added. The sauce should be the consistency of a thin mayonnaise. If not, blend for another 5 seconds. Serve immediately.

Tartar sauce

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 cup greek yogurt, strained
1 cup sour cream
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tsp. chopped fresh dill

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix until well combined. Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream. Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well. Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Feta cheese

Spicy Jalapeno Ketchup
3 cups kechup
1/4 cup canned jalapeno peppers – drained and diced
2 tbsp reserved jalapeno juice
1 tsp green pepper sauce

Cheese Wizz

Garlic Sauce
1 head garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup olive oil

Place the garlic, salt, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and olive oil in a quart-sized jar. Submerge an immersion blender in the mixture to the bottom of the jar. Mix with the blender resting on the bottom of the jar until the ingredients thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Angle the mixer to pull ingredients from the sides of the jar and lift it toward the top to better combine. Continue blending until the mixture reaches a texture similar to mayonnaise.

Fry Sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
2/3 cup mayonnaise

Ranch dressing

Barbecue sauce

Gravy, brown sauce

Vinegar (especially malt vinegar)


1 pound salt
1 gallon water
2 pounds cauliflower, broken into small florets
2 pounds cucumber, peeled and diced
2 pounds pearl onions, halved
9 ounces white sugar
3 teaspoons mustard powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
6 cups distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground turmeric

Dissolve the salt in the water, and add the cucumber, onions and cauliflower. Cover and leave for 24 hours. Drain the vegetables.

In a large pan, blend the sugar, mustard and ginger with 5 cups of vinegar. Stir in salt and vegetable mixture, bring to the boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Blend the flour and turmeric with the remaining 1 cup of vinegar and stir into the cooked vegetables. Bring to the boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour into sterilized canning jars.

In a large stock pot, pour water half way to top with boiling water. Using a holder, carefully lower jars into pot. Leave a 2-inch space between jars. Add more boiling water to cover them, about 2 inches above the tops. Bring to a boil and cover, processing for 15 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Put jars on a wood or cloth surface, several inches apart and allow to cool. Jars will be sealed.

Pickled cucumber
3-4 pounds (1 1/2-2 kilo) young and small cucumbers (dark green, firm, warty skin)
2-4 sprigs of fresh dill
6-8 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and cut in half
kosher salt
white vinegar

In a large jar, place 2 sprigs of dill and 3-4 cloves of garlic.

Wash and snip off ends of cucumbers. Put cucumbers in the jar until it is full.

Add water to the jar, one cup at a time. Then add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar for every 3 cups of water added.

Top with 2 more sprigs of dill and 3-4 more cloves of garlic.

Once the jar is filled to the top, seal jar. Gently shake to mix.

Set in window or outside where it will get some sun. Allow approximately 4 days for fermenting. If you like more sour pickles, can can let them stay in the jar for an extra day or two. Refrigerate.


Pickled Onions

Fresh Cheese Curds


Blue cheese dressing

Rosemary Mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Wasabi Mustard
2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
4 tbsp of crème fraîche
1/2 tsp of wasabi
Salt and white pepper to taste

Opening Day – Green City Market and Evanston Farmers Market

Man cannot live on bread alone? Don’t be so sure! Bennison’s makes it difficult to believe otherwise and are at both markets.
Lots of plants at Evanston

and a good mix of in-season veggies

at Green City.

Bon Appetit – and celebrate the upcoming season of great eating.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco De Mayo

I have celebrated Cinco de Mayo for as long as I can remember – a holiday that commemorates the Mexican army's uncertain victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 - and it’s always been one of my favorite celebrations. Let’s just call it one of those “drinking holidays.”

For most of us, it’s just another reason to make a great jug of Margaritas and get friends together for a festive Mexican meal.

You really don’t need to buy out the grocery store to put together a Mexican feast – look in your refrigerator and you’ll find plenty of ingredients and leftovers to invent the magic.

Lesson One: It’s all about buying good ingredients and making extraordinary sauces and salsas. I made three today and they were all so easy. A lot of chop chop and you’re done!

Lesson Two: Bolillos …authentic Mexican bread make the BEST sandwiches and they are baked fresh every day at my little Mexican bakery.

Here are a few recipes that will help get your party started.

Buen apetito!

Salsa Verde
My absolute favorite on Queso Fundido, Pork and Eggs.

10 Green Tomatillos – husks removed and cleaned
Half A White Onion
2 chiles serranos or Jalapenos
2 clove garlic
Salt and pepper
Approximately 10 Leaves of Cilantro
½ teaspoons Cumin
¼ teaspoons Mexican Oregano

Place tomatillos and jalapenos in water to cover. Bring to a low simmer, turning tomatillos so they are lightly browned. Add water as needed.

Remove and place in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, and blend.

Cut stems from the cilantro and place leaves into the blender. Blend until the cilantro is mixed.

Dice onion and place in the blender. Blend for a second so the onion is still a little chunky.

Cool and serve.

This is my recipe for Margaritas. After years in the test kitchen, I was amazed to discover that this simple combination was the perfect combination with the Roses Lime being the key ingredient.

½ cup agave tequila
½ cup Triple Sec
½ cup Margarita mix – Jose Quervo
½ cup Roses Lime

Pour into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into your favorite Margarita glass.


I’m not a beer drinker but this is really enjoyable if you want to switch it up. The recipe calls for 2 ounces of tomato juice but I actually use about half that amount.

1 large lime
2 ounces tomato juice
3 dashes Maggi brand sauce
12 ounces Mexican beer

Salt the rim of a 20-ounce glass; fill glass halfway with ice. Cut lime in half and squeeze both halves into glass. Add tomato juice and Maggi seasoning sauce. Top off with beer.

Makes 1 drink

You don’t always have to make everything from scratch now do you?I was going to make some homemade Sangria today, but found a 6 pack of Bacardi Silver Sangria at the grocery store. I took it home, loaded it up with slice fruit and let it sit in the refrigerator for about a half hour. This was surprisingly good, refreshing and light.

If you do have the time, this adaptation is a spicy, heavier version than the Bacardi – Silver which had more of a wine base and was sparkling.

You can add a dash of vodka if you want a better kick.


4 ancho peppers, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup chopped onion
6 ounces orange juice
4 ounces lime juice
1 ounce Worcestershire sauce
16 ounces tomato juice
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Toast ancho peppers in a 325-degree oven or in a hot pan until soft and lightly toasted; let cool.

Place peppers, onions, orange and lime juice in a blender and puree until smooth. Strain to remove ancho pieces.

Add Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, salt and pepper; let chill.

Makes 1 quart.

Guacamole en Molcajete
Another version of Guacamole and this time I used Xochitl chips.

I don’t often put chopped pepper in my guacamole but it added a ton of flavor. I will certainly be experimenting with other additions.

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped Serrano pepper
11/2 tablespoons chopped white onion
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 Haas avocado
2 tablespoons diced plum tomatoes, seeded
11/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Using a tejolote and molcajete (Mexican version of mortar and pestle), mash the garlic, pepper, onion, salt and half of lime juice.

Cut avocado in half around pit; twist halves apart. Tap knife firmly into the pit, turn knife and remove pit. Cut flesh of avocado into 1/2-inch pieces and scoop out with spoon. Using a wooden spoon, mash the avocado pieces in molcajete. Mix to a creamy but chunky consistency.

Add tomatoes, cilantro and remaining lime juice and mix gently.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Serves 2

Fine Cooking X 2

I recently got an issue of Fine Cooking Magazine and surprisingly, almost every one of the recipes in the April/May 2011 issue looked really fantastic.

These two were exceptional and required no changes.

Bon Appetit!
Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce
I got really excited about this dish the minute I took my first bite.
The wonton wrappers were the perfect substitute for the homemade ravioli pasta. In fact, I liked using the wonton wrappers better because they were so light so I didn’t feel full after I ate this dish.
The combination of the rich brown butter sauce, the bright lemon zest, and crunchy almond garnish were a perfect complement.
You can use any other vegetable as a substitute for the asparagus and it will be delicious.
This is also the perfect dish for a meatless Monday meal.
Yields 18 raviolli.

Sea salt
1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved
6 Tbs. mascarpone
1/3 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Pinch cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
36 wonton wrappers
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
Finely grated lemon zest to taste

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Have ready a medium bowl of ice water. Boil the asparagus tips until tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to the ice water. When cool, transfer with the slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside. Cook and cool the asparagus spears in the same manner; dry them on paper towels. In a food processor (or by hand), chop 1-1/2 cups of the spears very finely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining spears to the tips.

Add the mascarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano, anchovy paste, garlic, and cayenne to the chopped asparagus; mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange 18 wonton wrappers on a work surface. Put 1 level Tbs. of the asparagus filling in the center of each wrapper. Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges of each with water. Top each with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to seal, expelling any air bubbles as you seal. If you don’t plan to cook the ravioli immediately, cover them with a damp cloth.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, shaking the pan. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 6 minutes, and then immediately transfer to a small bowl.

Add the ravioli to the boiling water. When they rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to warm plates or pasta bowls. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the ravioli. Top with the reserved asparagus pieces, a grinding of pepper, a sprinkle of Parmigiano, and a little lemon zest, and serve.

                   I was going to clean up the plate before I took this but the sauce was so good had to savor every bit of it!

Vietnamese-Style Lamb Riblets with Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce
I never had lamb growing up so the first time I ate it about 15 years ago …well, I’ve been making up for lost time ever since.
These lamb riblets make for great finger food and they were more than surprising – they were off the chart amazing.
Great party cuisine because you can roast them ahead of time and then pop them under the broiler at the last minute.
You can do the broiler part of this if you want but I didn’t think they needed the extra carmelization. They were perfect after cooking and basting for almost 2 hours.
Serves 4 to 6 as an hors d’oeuvre or appetizer

1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. fish sauce
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil
2 Tbs. packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1-1/2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. whole coriander seed, toasted and coarsely ground
1 tsp. chile sauce, such as sriracha
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 lb. lamb breast riblets (also called Denver-style ribs)

Put all of the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Put the riblets in a gallon-size freezer bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and massage the riblets to evenly distribute the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 8 and up to 24 hours, turning the bag occasionally to redistribute the marinade.

Dipping Sauce:

2 Tbs. fish sauce
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 medium clove garlic, minced

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

A footnote on the sauce:

I did not particularly love this dipping sauce. I ate the lamb riblets on their own and they were delicious. If I used a sauce, I would go for a Nouc Cham and adjust to your own personal taste.

Nouc Cham:

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup fish sauce (Viet Huong Three Crabs brand or any Squid based sauce)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 of a lime, juiced
3-4 cloves of garlic , minced
2-3 Thai chili pepper, minced

In a small jar, combine water and sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add fish sauce, vinegar and lime juice and mix. Add garlic and chili pepper. Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Cooking the Riblets:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F. Remove the riblets from the marinade, scraping any excess seasonings back into the bag (reserve the marinade). Arrange the riblets bone side down on a flat roasting rack in a roasting pan or on a heavy-duty baking sheet. Roast, basting with the reserved marinade every 20 minutes for the first hour, until the meat is very tender and can be easily pierced with a knife, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Position an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiling element and heat the broiler on high. Arrange the riblets cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until browned and sizzling on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn with tongs and brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a serving platter. Serve with the dipping sauce and plenty of napkins.