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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rick Bayless shares his recipe for red chile short rib soup

Posted By on 06.25.15 at 09:00 AM

Rick Bayless mole de olla
  • Christopher Hirsheimer
  • Rick Bayless's mole de olla

Rick Bayless has published nine cookbooks since 1987's Authentic Mexican. I've cooked out of all of them, and I've not once come across a bunk recipe. So naturally I'm going to include his latest, More Mexican Everyday (Norton), with the others in our ongoing roundup of local cookbooks. A follow-up to 2005's Mexican Everyday, it adheres to the same MO, offering simple recipes with (mostly) easy-to-find ingredients. As with most of Bayless's books, the recipes are ever adaptable. There are a ton for vegetables—four full chapters' worth, with dishes including squash blossom soup, fettuccine with butternut squash and red poblano crema, and yellow mole with grilled fennel. And there are also chapters on breakfast (sample recipe: Xoco's granola) and dessert (e.g., coconut bread pudding) as well as chapters devoted to rice cookers (chipotle rice with shrimp) and slow cookers. I chose a recipe out of the last—mole de olla, or red chile short rib soup—mainly because I'm always disappointed in the insipid version you find in most restaurants. You don't need a slow cooker for this recipe if you're willing to spend a good three hours keeping an eye on a slow braise in a Dutch oven. The short ribs render a ton of fat, so I strained a lot of it off. It's still magnificently rich and deeply beefy.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

At last, here's hunter beef pastrami, the Low and Slow way

Posted By on 06.04.15 at 02:34 PM

Smoked hunter beef

One of my obsessions over the last few years has been scheming to create the elusive—or perhaps nonexistent—hunter beef pastrami. It's a basic brisket rubbed in Pakistani hunter beef spices that's smoked and then steamed until buttery tender. I'd dabbled with hunter turkey breast in the past, but when Friends of the Food Chain Barn & Company Pit Master Gary Wiviott and coauthor Colleen Rush asked if I wanted to contribute a recipe to their recently released Low & Slow 2: The Art of Barbecue, Smoke-Roasting, and Basic Curing, I knew the time was nigh to bring hunter beef pastrami into the world.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Fall in Cookie Love with Mindy Segal's Brownie Krinkles

Posted By on 05.01.15 at 01:00 PM

Mindy Segals Brownie Krinkles
  • Dan Goldberg
  • Mindy Segal's Brownie Krinkles

There have been (and are about to be) a lot of good new cookbooks released by local authors lately. I'm going to try to excerpt recipes from each of them as they come out. First up is Cookie Love, by pastry superchef and Hot Chocolate proprietor Mindy Segal (with Kate Leahy, a food writer based in Oakland, California). This is simply a lovely book, chock-full of cookie porn, with some 60 recipes broken down into categories like drop cookies, shortbread, sandwich cookies, bars, spritz and thumbprints, etc. Yes, there are basics like the simple chocolate chip, which yielded some of the best ever produced in my household, but there's also lots of wild stuff like smoked-almond shortbread with orange-blossom framboise, kolachkes with red-wine-and-ginger-pear butter, and graham cracker-passion fruit whoopie cookies. The recipes are built with enough flexibility to allow experimentation, but it's hard to imagine wanting to mess with something so elementally satisfying as brownie krinkles, which was the second recipe attempted by the aspiring pastry chef in my house. The great thing about this recipe—and about quite a few of the recipes in the book—is how Segal uses salt to intensify already deep and powerful flavors.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

One bite: Sort-of-local duck bacon from Maple Leaf Farms

Posted By on 06.02.14 at 04:03 PM

This bacon goes quack

The history of bacon substitutes has mostly been unimpressive. From Sizzlean to Baconnaise to turkey bacon, attempts to duplicate real smoked pork belly usually result in products that depress the gross national happiness. I don't know to what say about macon, or Scottish mutton bacon, which sounds pretty good, but I recently came across a package of thick-sliced applewood-smoked duck bacon in the cured meats section of Harvestime Foods, which always stocks an ever replenishing inventory of delightful oddities.

I know what you're thinking: What sort of duck has a belly fat enough to make bacon? The product lies. The meat comes from duck breast meat which goes through some sort of molding process to make it look like ragged rashers, with fat marbling rather than streaks. The packaging makes the dubious claim that it has 57 percent less fat than regular bacon (what sort of "regular" bacon?), but it renders quite a bit in the skillet, which is not a bad thing in my view—I used it to braise radishes. It's certainly very meaty. There's barely any shrinkage, and it's seemingly burn resistant while still managing to crisp up nicely. You wouldn't mistake the taste for pork, but it does have some of the familiar salty, sweet, smoky endorphin triggers that real bacon does.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

What to do with ramps: Albanian peta

Posted By on 05.12.14 at 03:15 PM

Ramp peta, with ramp pesto

A few years back friend of the Food Chain Jim Samata was strolling through his western-suburban neighborhood when he caught a powerful whiff of raw onion in the air. He followed his nose to a vacant lot where a mansion had recently been demolished. There, above a shaded gully, some workers were trimming trees and creating the olfactory disturbance when the limbs crashed into the understory. The depression was carpeted in ramps, the wild stinking onion from which our city takes its name (chicagou, in the indigenous tongue), and which inspire a culinary madness among chefs each spring, as they're among the very first edible things to poke out of the ground.

The lot has been scheduled for development ever since the house was taken down, but the project keeps getting delayed, so every year Samata goes in and harvests with a certain sense of urgency, much to the puzzlement of the neighbors who don't have a clue what he's doing. It's hard to believe, given the late onset of spring, but ramp season is nearly over, so a small posse headed out to Samata's turf last week to do some digging before it was too late.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A sneak peek at Leela Punyaratabandhu's Simple Thai Food

Posted By on 05.06.14 at 02:10 PM

phat phrik khing

Surely I've referred a time or two to the indispensable Thai food blog She Simmers, written by linguist and part-time Chicagoan Leela Punyaratabandhu. Well, it's been a long time coming, but now her clever, occasionally impish prose and wealth of knowledge have been collected in a tree-based volume titled Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen by Ten Speed Press.

It's divided into four sections containing familiar and uncommon recipes for snacks (pork satay, corn fritters), things meant to be eaten with rice (fried sun-dried beef, oxtail soup, curried fish custard), one-plate noodle or rice meals (curry noodles with chicken, shrimp paste rice), and sweets (mango and sweet coconut sticky rice, pineapple in scented iced syrup), followed by a section on basic recipes for things like curry paste, chile jam, and coconut milk from scratch.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Here are the winners of Baconfest's Golden Rasher Awards

Posted By on 04.28.14 at 01:07 PM

Caramelized bacon with clams casino broth, Michael Jordans Steakhouse
  • Anne Petersen
  • Caramelized bacon with clams casino broth, Michael Jordan's Steakhouse

This weekend marked the sixth annual Baconfest Chicago, and if sold-out attendance at three separate sessions featuring the work of over 160 chefs at the UIC Forum is any evidence, our oft-maligned baconmania has yet to be exhausted. I was a judge at the Friday night session, handing out the Golden Rasher Award for Most Creative Use of Bacon, and, like it is most years, "creative" was a loosely defined term. But at least my fellow judges, including Nueske's Bacon boss Bob Nueske, Doug Sohn, LTHForum jefe Ron Kaplan, Plate magazine editor Chandra Ram, and Serious Eats' Daniel Zemans quickly reached consensus on Michael Jordan's Steakhouse chef James O'Donnell's caramelized bacon with clams casino broth, Calabrian chiles, and bacon fat bread crumbs. Personally I thought the big chunk of swine in this bite was almost superfluous, so tasty was the briny, garlicky bivalve slurry it bathed in. In their insatiable quest for attention the Baconfest's powers that be forwarded the recipe as well as some bacon porn featuring the dishes of the weekend's other two winners: Farmhouse's Pigs in Mud and Lillie's Q's Bacon Float.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Thanks to Cremeria La Ordeña #2, Albany Park is now the mole capital of Chicago

Posted By on 03.10.14 at 01:54 PM

The mole bar at Cremeria La Ordeña #2
  • Mike Sula
  • The mole bar at Cremeria La Ordeña #2

Back in October, when I wrote about the great southwest-side Guerrerense grocery Cremeria La Ordeña, owner Nicolas Aguado mentioned that he and partner Luciano Dominguez were scouting locations in Albany Park for a second spot to sell their hard-to-find cheeses, meats, beans, and moles. Yet I had no idea Ordeña #2 would top the original location in its amazing mole selection. Located on a bustling stretch of Lawrence Avenue, the store has a long mole bar with 13—count 'em!—different imported moles (not counting the packaged Teloloapan brand). North-siders take heed: that's five more than the south-side location, which makes Albany Park the mole capital of Chicago. All are sold by weight and are available for sampling before purchase.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hey, who put avocado in my hot chocolate?

Posted By on 03.05.14 at 04:11 PM

Ina Pinkneys avocado hot chocolate

Ina did, that's who. This week I wrote about a bunch of local chefs and their surprising relationships with Big Food—consulting and developing recipes for giant corporations like Nestle and Kraft, or trade groups like the National Pork Board. Ina Pinkney has worked for a bunch of them, but perhaps her most interesting creation has been this simple avocado hot chocolate, which she created for the Avocados From Mexico growers' association. The result is a thick, almost puddinglike drink with barely a hint of the fruit's flavor but loads of its fatty richness.

Quoth Ina: "I garnish it with whipped cream . . . but that's just me, when something is too healthy."

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Getting Tibetan with beef and purple barley soup

Posted By on 02.03.14 at 03:50 PM

Hazzard Free Farms purple barley

Last month when I was going on about the panoply of locally produced foods at Ravenswood's River Valley Farmer's Table, I neglected to mention the small stock of obscure grains grown by Hazzard Free Farm in Pecatonica, near Rockford. Hazzard grows a bunch of cool-looking heirloom grains, many sporting unusual colors like Floriani Red Flint cornmeal and Hopi Blue polenta, but what caught my eye was a bag of dusty-looking whole-grain Tibetan purple barley. Besides looking cool (once washed), this is hull-less barley as opposed to pearled, which means it still has its nutritious bran, but also means it takes a long time to cook. I soaked it overnight before I made beef and barley soup, then cooked it for a whole day without breaking down the grains. They were nice, though, chewy and nutty and a bit like wheat berries, which the package says they make a good substitute for in salads. I say, eat some purple barley.

Recipe after the jump:

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