Friday, October 30, 2009

Porky Pig

On Thursday night, I got home from class and had one of my favorite meals that I make.  The dish is simple enough, generally takes around thirty to forty-five minutes, and is unbelievably delicious.  It is a nice way to end the week.  Be very jealous that my week ends on a Thursday.  Feel free to make fun of me later though since you have a job and I have all these goofy papers to write.  Anyway, here is the recipe for this winning dish.

Recipe (serves 2)
2 tbsp butter, cut into 1 tbsp chunks
1 lb pork tenderloin, unflavored
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1/4 tbsp rosemary or thyme
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 cup canned cranberry sauce, whole berries
1 tbsp chile powder
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tspn cayenne pepper
kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat
3. While butter is melting, salt and pepper all sides of the pork
4. When butter is hot, put the pork in the pan and brown on all sides (about 1 minute per side)
5. Put pan in the oven for 13-15 minutes until a meat thermometer reads 150 when put in the thickest part of the pork
6. While pork is browning, begin making the sauce by melting the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat
7. When butter is melted, add the onion and rosemary or thyme.  Cook for 3 minutes until onions are softened.
8. Add the chicken stock, cranberry sauce, balsamic vinegar, chile powder, and cayenne pepper to the onions.
9. Cook the sauce for about 15-20 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently.
10. When meat reaches 150 degrees, tent the meat with foil and pour the pan scraping into the cranberry sauce.  Cook the sauce for a couple minutes longer until re-thickened.  Salt and pepper sauce to taste.

I like to serve this pork with Green Beans Almondine.  I like how the green and red look on the plate and the subtle almond flavor plays nicely off the bold cranberry sauce.  This recipe is quick too, so here it is.

2 cups green beans, frozen
1/3 cup almonts, sliced
2 tbsp butter, cut in half
juice from 1/2 orange
1 tspn orange zest

1. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a pan over medium heat.
2. When butter is hot, add almonds and cook until fragrant
3. Add green beans to pan an cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring constantly until all green beans are no longer frozen.
4. Remove pan from heat and squeeze the juice over the green beans.
5. Add remaining buter to hot green beans an toss until melted.
6. Sprinkle orange zest over green beans.  Cover tightly with foil for a few more minutes if the butter is not melted.  Serve.

Easy as pie.  Mmmmm pie.

Late Night Munchies

Sorry for the delay on posting. Evidence mid-terms aren't as pleasant as they sound. Anyway, after slaving away on cite checking and writing my mid-term, I got very hungry. The only trouble was that it was 1:30am when the hunger hit. Since I have not been to the store in a while, I realized that I had to go out to get something. Since no restaurant nearby was open at 2:00am, I had to find something that I could drive to. I remembered my ex-boss (did I mention I'm looking for a job...anybody? no? ok then) told me there were some Korean BBQ places that are open all night on Western Avenue. I poked around the internet for bit, and found one that is near Western and Foster that was open until 5:00am. I threw on my cape, and off I went to San Soo Gab San. San Soo Gab San is located at 5247 N. Western.

I arrived at the place, which is in a strip mall just north of Foster.  I've never been to a Korean BBQ before, so I was completely unaware of what to expect.  The tables had a large metal piece in the middle with a hole in the middle.  I didn't know what the hole was designed for and I originally thought it might have been a table for ritual killings.  I quickly learned that they place a big bowl of flaming hot coals in the center and you grill food over it.  Have you ever noticed how most Asian restaurants have a particularly large amount of typos on their menus?  Well, I would have had an easier time reading this menu if it were solely in Korean.  After several minutes of discerning the menu, I finally arrived on the #40.  A #40 is sliced pork belly with kim chi in a spicy sauce.

Suddenly, and without warning, the waitress sprung upon me with somewhere around twenty bowls of additional side dishes.  She put these small bowls down and departed without any explanation of what they were.  Some of these dishes were veggies, some were meats, others were something undetectable. 

The pork belly dish had a very nice flavor to it, even if the spiciness did build exponentially as I ate it.  On the plus side, it cleared out my sinuses and possibly healed a cold that I didn't even know I had.  The one problem (besides the tofu, which I am predisposed to hate), was that the pork belly had many little rounds of bone in them.  This made eating very unsightly and somewhat unpleasant.  Of the twenty bowls of food that were brought out, I only mildly enjoyed about two of them.  One of them I described as gelatinized water, and I am still unclear on what exactly it was. 

Overall, I'm glad I went out and tried something totally new.  I'm not sure if I would go back, but perhaps if I ordered meat to grill on the coal hole, it would be better and more fun.  If you have any tips on Korean BBQ, let me know because I'm willing to give it a shot again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Holy Mackerel!

Welcome to another installment of Fish Tuesday, featuring your host, Fishguy Market!  Today I got an excellent looking Spanish Mackerel at the market.  I was in Spain over the summer and remembered the Spanish put saffron in everything, plus I have a whole bunch of saffron that I bought over there, so I wanted to include saffron in the dish.  I also know that mackerel is a particularly oily fish, so I needed something citrus-y to cut through the oil.  I decided on a saffron and lemon aioli to be the vehicle to incorporate the citrus and saffron.  I also needed a side to serve with the fish.  I normally would serve rice, green beans, or carrots with the fish, but then I remembered the amuse that I ate at Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain.  The dish from Mugaritz ( was a new potato baked in edible clay until it looked like a rock, the dish was served with a small dish of garlic aioli.  The potato was served atop hot rocks, so it was nearly indistinguishable from the rocks.  Fortunately, I chose the potato and not a rock to bite into, so my teeth remain unbroken.  Here is a picture of that dish.  The potato is the top gray "rock."

In an effort to capture some of the magic of the Mugaritz dish, at least in terms of flavor profile, I chose to serve the fish with some roasted potatoes.  I did not want to do new potatoes with the fish, since I thought the waxiness of the potato would not work well with the oiliness of the fish, so I selected Yukon Gold potatos for the light fluffiness and creaminess.  I don't think I've ever used the suffix "ness" so much in my entire life, but here we are.  Below is the recipe for this dish.  I feel like it could use more saffron next time, but other than that, it was very nice.

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 mackerel filets

Saffron & Lemon Aioli
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten (be sure there is no white at all, otherwise this won't work as well)
3/4 cup olive oil (not virgin, virgin has too much olive flavor).  You could probably use grapeseed oil too if you really wanted pure saffron and lemon flavor, but most people don't have grapeseed just laying around.
2 cloves garlic, ground into a paste
2 pinches saffron threads (I only used one, but two would be better)
2 tbsp very hot water in a bowl
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
kosher salt
pepper (preferably white, but black will be fine)

Roasted Potatoes
8 yukon gold potatoes, sliced into 1/4" thick discs
olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 425.

2.  Lay potato slices out in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with a silicon baking mat or brushed with olive oil.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the potatoes.  Salt and pepper the potatoes.  Put in oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops of the potato discs begin to brown.

3.  Before starting to make aioli, put saffron threads in the bowl of very hot water.  Stir, and let flavor infuse while you make the rest of the aioli.  Water will turn a yellow color.

4.  Put yolks into a small bowl (or food processor, if using) and put garlic paste into the olive oil.

5.  Using an immersion blender fitted with the whisk attachment (a food processor or whisk could also work), pour half of the olive oil in a thin steady stream into the egg yolks while whisking or using the food processor.  Once the mixture thickens, stop whisking.

6.  Put lemon juice and white wine vinegar in the mixture.  Begin whisking again.  Pour the rest of the oil and the garlic into the mixture in a thin steady stream.  Continue whisking until mixture is the consistency of mayonnaise. 

7.  Add saffron water into the aioli, making sure to scrape the threads into the mixture.  Whisk briefly to incorporate and re-thicken.  Salt and pepper the aioli to taste, stir.  If you want, add more lemon juice until it tastes how you want.

8.  Lighly oil the bottom of a saute pan and heat to medium heat.

9.  Once pan is hot, add fish, skin side down.  Cook for 5 minutes

10.  Flip the fish to the flesh side for about 30 seconds to "kiss" that side with heat.

11.  To assemble, make a ring of roasted potatoes in the center of the plate.  Fill the center of the ring with the saffron and lemon aioli.  Place the fish ontop of the potatoes and drizzle a slight amount of aioli ontop of the fish.

Since I'm not allowed to have any fun for the rest of the semester (see a few posts below), I did not drink wine with dinner.  However, I imagine that a Riesling would do well to offset the tartness of the aioli.  Since this dish has a few Spanish ingredients in it, you might want to try something like an Albarino (like this one from Cuvee Cellars  I had a beautiful glass of cava with the potato dish at Mugaritz, so that may be able to work with this dish, but the fish might overpower, though the bubbles would do well to cut through some of the oiliness.  This is the one I had at Mugaritz (  Here is a picture of the completed dish.  If you try it or have any other thoughts, let me know!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Loose as a Goose

Each Sunday night, my heart sinks and a sense of dread pervades my being.  No, it is not the sad fact that my weekend is coming to an abrupt end.  The dark cloud that hangs over me is knowledge that on Monday I will have to attend the worst class I've had the displeasure of taking in law school, Criminal Law.  I'm not going to go into any real detail with the reasons I dislike the class, but it's so disorganized that it makes a three hour long class seem like a six hour long class.  Today was a double-shot of terrible because I also had to get a tetanus shot so that I can register for classes soon.  I look forward to feeling like I was punched in the arm for the next four days.

You may be asking yourself, "wait, isn't this a food blog, what does this have to do with anything?"  Well, relax, everything will be tied up shortly. 

I decided to do an experiment to make this terrible class more bearable.  This heavily scientific experiment can be summed up in one word...drinking.  After my tetanus shot at Walgreens on North and Wells, I went a few blocks to the Goose Island Brewery.  The Goose Island Brewery is located at 1800 N. Clybourn, and their website is

To start, I really wish that I liked Goose Island beer more than I do because I think it would be great to drink Chicago beer.  Unfortunately, I find most of their beer to be very mediocre.  The exception to this regrettable rule is Matilda.  It is not the best beer I've ever had, but it is a great effort from the Goose.  Matilda is a Belgian style ale that is creamy, spicy, and hauntingly sweet.  It has an interesting note of burnt caramel that I think is strange, but interesting, for a light colored beer.  Here is a picture of the fancy Matilda glass.  Look at the fancy crest!

I'm very happy that I have found a Chicago beer that I enjoy.  Although Goose Island has let me down in general, there is another Chicago brewery that has some promise.  I still have to taste more of the offerings from Metropolitan Brewing, which is relatively new, before I make any judgment on it, but the few beers that I have had from them were very good, so there is still a bright, shining beacon hope for Chicago beer. 

Moving onto the food.  I had the Amablu Burger.  This burger consisted of a pepper-crusted patty topped with blue cheese and german mustard served on pumpernickel bread.  This burger had numerous problems, but I'll start with the parts that I did like.  The pepper-crusted patty had great flavor with a slight spicy kick.  I think the patty could have worked very well with some other accompaniments, but I also think riding a  unicorn would be nice, unfortunately neither are reality.  The fries were also very good - crisp exterior with a creamy, although slightly grainy interior.  Now the bad....  The blue cheese was heaped on the burger.  I like blue cheese as much as anybody, but it completely drown out the flavor of the tasty pepper patty.  The mustard did very little to cut through the glob of blue cheese, and thus was a pointless ingredient. Eating this burger was like eating mouthful after mouthful of blue cheese.  Perhaps if Goose Island shrunk the burger and served it as an appetizer, it could work since it would only be a couple bites, but as it stood, I could not finish it.

At least I had the Matilda though!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bon Voyage Fun. See You for X-Mas!

In what has become an annual tradition for me, the last full weekend of October is affectionately unfortunately known as Brian's Farewell to Fun.  This bittersweet weekend occurs because the nightmare of law school kicks into high gear after this point.  This year, the farewell came a week early due to several deadlines looming on the horizon.  Next week I have to have half of my cite-checking assignment for law review done, start researching and writing my evidence midterm, continue research for my article, and have a meeting with one of my editors to go over my first portion.  After next week, I have to write 20 more pages, incorporate edits to the first portion, and finish cite checking.  Immediately after I turn all of that stuff in, I have to start outlining for my classes so I don't fail my finals.  Is it too late to run away and join the circus or wander aimlessly around Napa Valley? 

With this impending monsoon of work, this weekend was sorely needed.  I had a few people over to my apartment on Saturday, and I wanted to make a drink that tasted like the fall.  The Lake Geneva adventure from last week (read about it a few posts below) left me with more apples than I know what to do with, so using the apples was an obvious answer (unless I wanted 10 lbs of rotting apples).  I looked around the internet for a recipe, but I didn't find much that sounded good.  I was talking about my drink-related plight with my friend/ex-coworker, Cristian.  Fortuitously, he had an excellent sounding (and absurdly strong) drink recipe.  It seems like a variation of an Apple Pie shot that I have had before, but I did not know how to make it before Cris enlightened me.  If you need a good fall party drink or need to scrape paint off of a barn, this is the recipe for you.  My initial attempt at the drink could have killed a man, so I had to do some adjusting.  Sorry no pictures for this one because I was in a hurry to get it done.

1 quart apple juice
2 quarts apple cider
2 large or 3 small cinnamon sticks
additional ground cinnamon (if needed)
2 apples, cored and wedged
1 bottle of everclear

1.  Put apple juice and cinnamon sticks in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.
2.  Pour hot apple juice and cinnamon sticks into a crockpot, but do not turn it on yet (or you can use a stock pot).
3.  Add apple cider to crockpot.
4.  Add apple slices.
5.  When the juice has cooled slightly, add bottle of everclear to juice.  Turn on crockpot to lowest setting or put stock pot on stove and set to lowest heat.
6.  Taste the drink and adjust until it tastes properly (like liquid apple pie) by adding more cider or cinnamon.
7.  This is very very strong (as you may have guessed), but you can't tell it has so much alcohol in it, so be responsible (I can't believe I just said that).

Note:  This should be served warm, not hot.  Alcohol boils around 170 degrees.  If you are not watchful of the crockpot (or stock pot) you may accidentally boil off the alcohol.

Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast is the least important meal of the day, so I rarely eat it.  This unfortunate reality deprives me of the opportunity to eat some of the more scrumptions dishes like eggs benedict, french toast, and hash browns.  Who says breakfast has to be eaten in the morning?  Certainly not me, and anyone who disagrees can go %$#! himself or herself. 

Threats aside, on Thursday night I had bacon crepes for dinner, and they were amazing.  I think three of the recipes I have posted, including this one, have incorporated bacon in some way, so you can clearly see how highly I regard this incredible meat.  Here is how the crepe recipe goes (I think I got this recipe from the French Laundry book, but this is slightly modified).

Ingredients (makes about 8 crepes)

Dry Ingredients
1 cup of flour
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of kosher salt
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Wet Ingredients
1 1/4 cups of milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 tspn vanilla extract (pure, not imitation)

1.  Mix all dry ingredients except bacon in a medium sized bowl.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

2.  Mix all wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and whisk together.

3.  Pour wet mixture into the well in the middle of the dry ingredients.  Whisk to combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Continue whisking until the batter is smooth.

4.  Add bacon and mix to incorporate throughout batter.

5.  Spray a medium sized frying pan (preferably non-stick) with non-stick cooking spray.  Heat pan over medium heat until pan is very hot.

6.  Pour about 3/4 ladle of batter into center of hot pan.  Rotate the pan so the batter spreads to the edges of the pan.

7.  Cook until the top of the crepe looks dry (about 35-45 seconds if the pan is at proper temp.) and then flip the crepe in the pan to cook the other side (about 30 more seconds).

8.  Put crepe on a plate and cover with a towel while you cook the remaining crepes.

9.  Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar, or lemon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Semi-Successful Fish Tuesday

Immediately after leaving the incomparable Smoque, I headed a few blocks over to the Fishguy Market for $10/lb fish day (as discussed last week).  I ended up with some Mahi Mahi filets.  I still had bbq on my mind, having just eaten my fill of pulled pork, so I wanted to do a bbq fish.  The normal bbq sauce I make always ends up being best the day after it is made, and way to vinegary the day it is made.  This posed a problem since I wanted to eat dinner that day, so I was forced to find a new recipe.  I looked for one that didn't contain much vinegar since that is the ingredient that takes the longest to marry with the other flavors.  I ended up finding a mango bbq sauce in the Tru cookbook that contained no vinegar (outside of the ketchup) and only took about thirty minutes to make.  Well...I'm not sure if I skipped a step or if the recipe is wrong (probably the former), but it tasted like a mix of puke and death.  The picture in the book was a nice, deep red bbq sauce, but mine looked like I ground up a bunch of orange peels.  Lucky for me, I've learned from my years of cooking to taste everything as you are cooking it.  I'd like to think anyone would have tasted it before putting it on the fish just because of its absurd color, so maybe I'm giving too much credit to cooking experience.

Anyway, outside of the death bbq sauce, everything else turned out very nicely.  I made a grain mustard, honey, and soy sauce glaze.  The fish was then grilled (on my indoor grill) and served with wild rice and green beans.  Here is the recipe:

Glazed Mahi Mahi (serves 2)
2 mahi mahi filets (about 3/4 pound)
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grain mustard
soy sauce
cayenne pepper
kosher salt

Note:  If you don't have a grill, just use a frying or saute pan

1. Salt and pepper both sides of fish before preheating the grill.  The salt will pull some of the protiens to the surface so the fish doesnt get that white gunk on it when it cooks, so this step is important.

2.  To make the glaze, mix honey and mustard together.  Add a few drops of soy sauce and stir together.  Glaze should be the consistency of paint.  If it is too thick, add more soy, if it is too liquid-y, add more mustard and honey.  When glaze is the proper consistency, add a couple dashes of cayenne pepper.

3.  Spray the grill with non-stick cooking spray.  Heat grill to medium-low.

4.  About a minute before putting the fish on the grill, brush the glaze generously on both sides of the fish.

5.  Put fish in the pan, and cook for 4-6 minutes per side, depending on thickness.  The glaze will carmelize and turn very dark brown.

For the wild rice and green beans, just follow normal cooking instructions for each.  When you put the green beans in a bowl, put a tablespoon of butter in the bowl and cover with foil for a few minutes so the butter melts.  Toss green beans with melted butter, and thank me later for the deliciousness.

Here is a picture.  I included the gross bbq sauce on the plate just so you could see what I meant.  I bet a nice fruity bbq sauce would be very good with this dish, but I didn't have the chance to find out.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoque-ing Barrels

On Tuesday, I went to Smoque BBQ, which is definitely the best barbeque place in the city.  I've never eaten bbq in some of the more famous areas (Kansas City, North Carolina, Texas, etc.), but if they can offer food that is better than Smoque, then they deserve the fame. 

Smoque is located at 3800 N. Pulaski in Chicago.  Visit its website at  It is right next to the I-90 Pulaski exit, so that makes it easy to get to.  The only downside; however, is that parking can sometimes be difficult when the weather is nice because Smoque gets very crowded and is surrounded by permit parking/angry neighbors who don't like you parking in front of their houses.

Fortunately, the day I was there was rainy and cold, so there were not many people in line and parking was fine.  The menu has only a few choices, but everything is so delicious that it is difficult to make a decision.  If I could eat 5 trays of food, I would not have such trouble (except for the inevitable heart attack), but sadly, I cannot pack that much away.  After some intense deliberation and a little nervous crying, I settled on the pulled pork platter (and its accompanying alliteration).  Each of Smoque's meats come with a different bbq sauce that is made in-house specifically for that type of meat.  The pulled pork sauce is very vinegary, peppery, and has a pretty big note of lime.  The tartness of the sauce cuts straight through the fattiness of the pork and it balances perfectly with the sweetness and smokiness of the meat.  Unlike most pulled pork available in this area, Smoque's is not dry at all.  The platter is served with two side dishes.  My favorite sides are the maccaroni and cheese and the fries.  The mac and cheese has a lightly crisp topping of bread crumbs covering elbow macccaroni that is all baked with a tangy cheese sauce that has a slightly chalky (in a good way) texture.  The mac tastes exactly how I imagine the dirty South to feel, if that makes any sense.  The fries are hand-cut and perfectly crisp.  They are served in a big, brown paper bag, and I'm almost positive that even Joey Chestnut could not finish the entire serving.  Here is the platter, for your viewing pleasure.  I don't eat cole slaw for some reason, so please ignore my non-review of it (I'm sure its delicious).

Smoque is BYOB (with no corkage fee), but for some reason I always forget about this perk.  A jammy and peppery zinfandel would be very nice with the pulled pork.  Even though a zin would be a nice choice, I think I would stick to beer, since I imagine barbeque, beer, and backyard (again with the alliteration) to be all part of the same package.  If I brought a beer, it would be a creamy, mellow, and slightly sweet ale, like a Goose Island Matilda or a LaChouffe Blonde Ale.  I think that law school frowns on drinking before class, so even if I had remembered, it would not have worked out...though Evidence might be a bit more fun.  As always, check it out, you won't be disappointed.  Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sunday Funday

A few weeks ago, I ate at Great Lakes Pizza in Chicago, which was named the Best Pizza in America by GQ (a review from me will be coming on or around 10/30 when I return there again, but I don't disagree with GQ).  I don't like being unable to do things that other people can, so I decided to make pizza for the Bears game.  Since I had 8 people to feed, I decided to do two different types of pizza to mix it up. 

The first pizza I decided to do was a knock-off of the one I had at Great Lakes.  This pizza was mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, garlic and bacon.  The second was a white pizza that had chicken, alfredo sauce, spinach, and pecorino romano cheese.  One thing I've unquestionably learned from this experience is that I am incapable of spinning the pizza through the air like I was Mario or Luigi or something (yes, I know they are plumbers, but you get the idea).  I blame my lack of Italian-ness, so I was stuck with the rolling pin. 

The oven broke down about halfway through, so there was a bit of a hitch in my day.  I recovered nicely though and the pizzas turned out awesomely.  My favorite was the white chicken pizza, but both were very good.  I also made a "junk" pizza for the last one of the day where I threw everything on it...that did not turn out well due to the fake and very slimy fake crab meat.  Disgusting, what was I thinking?  Ohhh well, can't win them all.  As you may have noticed from some of the other recipes in this space, I am no stickler for health food.  If something I prepare happens to turn out healthy, know that it was purely by accident.  Fortunately for taste's sake, this pizza wasn't such an accident.

Here is what I did to make the pizzas.  I wish the crust was a bit more airy and light, so next time I may use more yeast to make it rise better.  If you like very crisp crust (like a cracker) then this recipe will work great.  I used the same type of dough for all pizzas.

Dough (makes about seven 9" pizzas)
2 tspn active dry yeast
2.5 cups warm water (about 100 degrees to bloom yeast in)
2 cups of cake flour
5 cups of regular flour
3 tspn kosher salt
2 tspn honey
Olive oil

1.  Put yeast in warm water.  Stir yeast so all of it dissolves into the water. Allow it to sit for 4-5 minutes while yeast blooms.
2.  Combine cake flour, regular flour, and salt in a mixer bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix well so all dry ingredients are dispersed evenly
3.  Put mixer bowl on stand mixer.  Using the dough hook attachment, turn the mixer on low.
4.  Slowly add yeast mixture and honey to the flour mixture.  The dough will clump up and form a ball around the dough hook.
5.  The dough ball should feel smooth and moist, not sticky or overly dry.  If it is sticky, add a small amount of flour and continue mixing.  If it feels too dry, add a teaspoon of water and continue mixing.
6.  When dough is the proper consistency, remove from dough hook and knead for 10-15 minutes.
7.  Oil a large bowl with the olive oil.  Rub ball around the bowl, making sure the entire surface has some oil on it.
8.  Put dough ball in oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit in a warm place for 2-3 hours until it doubles or triples in size.
9.  When dough is finished with this first rising, remove it from the bowl and punch it down with your fists.  Divide ball into 7-8 pieces that are all of equal size, and roll each piece into a ball.  Lightly flour your countertop and the tops of each ball.  Place balls on flour and cover each loosely with plastic wrap (they will double in size again).
10.  After about 90-120 minutes, roll or toss (if you know how) each ball into a pizza shape, being sure to flour the work surface and the pizza so it doesn't stick and tear.

Note:  The preparation for any type of pizza is the same up until this point.  At the start of either pizza, make sure to preheat the oven to its highest temperature (usually 550 for home ovens).  Also be sure to put the pizza stone or large baking sheet in the oven while preheating.

Red Pizza
1 large can of tomato puree
3 cloves of garlic, smashed, plus 2 cloves of garlic diced
1/4 onion, diced
1-2 tspn white wine vinegar
2 tspn oregano
1/2 tspn thyme
1/2 tspn fennel seed
2 bags mozarella cheese, shredded
8 slices of applewood smoked bacon, cooked and drained on paper towels
Olive oil
Kosher Salt

1.  Film a saute pan with olive oil and heat over medium-low heat until hot.
2.  Add diced onion and a pinch of salt, saute for 2-3 minutes
3.  Add garlic and continue to saute for 2-3 more minutes until onions turn translucent.
4.  Pour in the tomato puree
5.  Add vinegar, oregano, thyme, and fennel seed.  Mix well.
6.  Allow to cook for 45-60 minutes.
7.  Put sauce in a blender and blend on high until sauce is smooth
8.  Put a thin layer of sauce on the pizza dough.
9.  Break bacon into bite size pieces and place evenly around the dough
10.  Generously sprinkle cheese onto pizza until it is completely covered.
11.  Place a small amount of diced garlic ontop of the cheese.
12.  Put pizzas in the oven for about 8-10 minutes.  Make sure you watch very carefully since it is a 550 degree oven.  The pizza is done when the cheese is covered in dark brown spots.  Remove from oven and slice into pieces.

White Pizza
3/4 stick of butter
1 cup of parmesan cheese
5 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 cup of whipping cream
1 tspn tarragon leaves
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 bag of baby spinach leaves

1.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
2.  When butter is melted, add garlic.  Cook for 4-5 minutes.
3.  Add cream, parmesan cheese, and tarragon to butter mixture
4.  Cook, stirring constantly until smooth and then remove from heat.
5.  If the sauce clumps up when it cools, simply put over low heat, add a small amount of milk and stir until it is the proper consistency.
6.  Spread a small amount of sauce on the pizza, place spinach leaves around the sauce covering nearly the entire dough area.
7.  Place some of the diced chicken on the spinach, being sure to distribute it evenly.
8.  Cover chicken with Pecorino Romano cheese.
9.  Put pizza in oven on pizza stone for 8-10 minutes.  The cheese on this pizza will not brown very much, so be sure to watch to be sure the crust is not burning.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cuvee Cellars

I triumphantly returned to the Chicago-land area after my semi-disasterous trip out to Lake Geneva.  In order to get the bad parts out of my head, I decided to go to the happiest place on earth.  No, not Disneyland, I'm talking about Cuvee Cellars, the best wine bar/store in the area/world.  You can check this place out for yourself at  It is located at 545 Spring Road in Elmhurst, IL.  Cuvee Cellars specializes in California wines and Champagnes, but I have seen a few Oregons and Washingtons creeping onto the menu in the last couple of months.  Fortunately for everyone who visits, whoever is choosing wine to put on the menu is doing a spectacular job, so just trust their judgment.  Cuvee Cellars has a great selection of very popular wine, but it also has many wines that you will probably never see anywhere else.  Not only is the wine great, but the bartenders are nothing short of amazing.  John and Craig are the owners, and they are frequently working (at least on the weekends when I usually go), Nick, Peter, Joey, and Deanna (during the day) round out the all-star bartending cast.  No question that I've ever asked has gone unanswered no matter how off-the-wall or unrelated to anything it may have been.  Joey even once explained to me where babies come from...well, that didn't actually happen, but I'm sure he could have because he...Ok, I'll just stop here before this topic takes a turn in the wrong direction.  You get the idea, this place is great for anything.  You can buy presents for birthdays or holidays with the confidence that whatever you choose will be delicious.  You can stop in on a weekend and hang out all night (you will probably see me there if you go on a weekend, as an added bonus).  If you like to drink before noon, you can even do that since they open at 11am.  It's everything you could ever want in a wine bar and more, check it out.  Now.

My current favorite wine on Cuvee Cellars' menu.  Minds Eye Cabernet Sauvignon

 Cuvee Cellars is having a Halloween party.  You get 10% off if you come in costume...5% if it's a lame costume.

Other pics of the bar/store

Getaway Day and Doughnuts

As mentioned in the previous post, I had a twenty page research-type paper due on Friday.  After spending the previous forty-eight hours pulling my hair out and staring at my computer until my eyes were bloodshot, I needed to get away from my place.  After a failed bid to get a flight to San Francisco with only seven hours of warning, we chose to head north to Lake Geneva.  I had it in my head that I wanted to eat a doughnut from an apple orchard.  For some reason, doughnuts made at apple orchards are at least ten to fifteen times as good as every other doughnut on the planet.  I'm also not clear on why all apple orchards serve doughnuts, but I am certainly not complaining.  We got up there around 12:30 pm, and were going to eat lunch; however, it ended up taking nearly two hours to find a place to eat since everywhere was closed during the day (Kirsch's), non-existent (screw you Fischers), or transformed into a Hong Kong restaurant (a place possibly called Frank's).  So due to lack of options, I ended up at Smoky's BBQ in the Timber Ridge Lodge (after getting lost in the incredible maze of wood paneled resort buildings).  The best word that could be used to described this place is "meh".  It was not terrible, though the raging hunger may have made it seem better than it really was (sorry no pictures, I forgot due to the hunger....Did I mention I was hungry?).  I also noticed that they had a thing for dousing their food in cumin, which was not the most pleasant thing in the world.  After that bit of semi-unpleasantness, we were off to the apple orchard.

It was a perfect fall day for apple picking, temperatures in the mid-fifties, and trees burgeoning with apples.

After picking way too many apples, I finally got my doughnuts...well, not before waiting in line.  Apparently it was doughnut day in Lake Geneva and every one in the surrounding townships flocked to the orchard to get their doughnuts that day.  To make matters worse, the orchard was down to their last fryer, so they had to make the sweet sweet pastries as they were ordered.  Finally, after having listened to the group in front of me have some absurd thirty minute conversation about Napa, I got what I came for.  It was hot (fresh from the fryer), soft, apple-y, cinnamon-y, full of cake-y goodness, with just a slight crunch from the granulated sugar.  Ohhh so delicious.  If there is one thing that really gets me in the fall spirit, its apple orchard doughnuts.

Also I bought a 65 pound pumpkin for $9

To conclude....  If you like confusion, hunger, everything being far away from everything else, places that don't really exist, cumin, apple orchard doughnuts, and gigantic pumpkins, then Lake Geneva is probably a place for you to visit.

Nacho Delight

Apologies for my absence for the last few days.  I had 20 pages of a law review article due on Friday, then I took a journey to Lake Geneva (another story for another entry) on Saturday, and finally, I spent Sunday in the burbs.  Here I am making my triumphant return...

On Thursday evening, I had some spectacular nachos at the house.  I'm  not really sure if they have nachos in Mexico, but if they did, these would be better than the finest Mexican nachos.  They are simple, delicious, and fast.  Anyway, if you want to go south of the border, here's how you can do it.

Stuff You Need

1/2 - 3/4 of a bag of salted tortilla chips (preferably El Rancheo or El Milagro, certainly not Tostitos)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
1/2 white onion
1 tbsp chile powder
1 tspn cumin seeds, crushed
1 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese
kosher salt

1.  Get oven preheating to 350
2.  Spread chips on a baking sheet in one layer.  Sprinkle cheese generously over the chips and set aside.
3.  Dice peppers and onion into small cubes
4.  Dice chicken into bite-size cubes
5.  Oil a saute pan and put over medium heat until hot
6.  Meanwhile mix chile powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt together.  Coat chicken in this rub.
7.  Put peppers and onion into pan and cook for about 1 minute.
8.  After 1 minute, add chicken and cook for 3-5 more minutes, stirring constantly.
9.  Spread chicken and pepper mixture over the chips in an even layer.
10.  Put chips in oven and cook until cheese is thoroughly melted.
11.  Remove from oven and enjoy the amazingness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Taste the Forbidden

For lunch today, we went to one of my favorite quick places in the city, 90 Miles Cuban Cafe.  As you may have guessed from the name, it serves Cuban food.  The most expensive thing on the menu is $9.95, but most sandwiches run in the $6.50 range.  It's also BYOB, so really, what's not to like?  It's even got a cool telephone number.  One of the only problems with this place, though it did not come into play today, is that it is really small (think 8 seats), so sometimes it gets really crowded.

Onto the food....

We ordered one Lechon sandwich and one Bistec dinner.  For those of you who don't speak Spanish (including me), lechon is shredded pork and bistec is steak (in this case, a skirt steak).  Much to our surprise, they came out with a lechon sandwich and a lechon dinner.  I'm not entirely clear how it happened, but they quickly remedied the situation, and even let us have the mistaken lechon.  As a sidebar, if I ever start a mariachi band, it's going to be named Mistaken Lechon.  And we're back....  The lechon sandwich was served on a bun (despite the menu's ominous warning of "White Bread Only") with grilled onions and fried plantains.  The steak was served covered in grilled onions with a side of rice. 

While the lechon sandwich was quite delicious on its own, I felt like it could have used some spice to it.  Fortunately for the spice-seekers like me, there are several bottles of habenero pepper sauce (really spicy) situated around the countertop and also some other pepper-based sauce (a bit less spicy).  I was in good hands.  The bistec was extremely garlic-y, and probably not good for a date if you plan on making out later.  However, since I had no imminent make out plans, it was a solid choice.

Finally we move on to my new obsession, Iron Beer.  If I learned anything from the back of the Iron Beer can, it was that it is hauled around by mules and it is the national drink of Cuba.  It tastes like a mix of root beer, cream soda, orange pop, and a big hint of amazing, which sounds like one of those concoctions you make used to make with the pop fountains at Burger King when you were a kid, only this one is good.  For all of you lushes out there, you will have to look somewhere else for your fix, Iron Beer is  non-alcoholic despite its misleading name.  I imagine it would be good in an Iron Beer float...I have to get my hands on some of this stuff.  Anyway, now I know of at least 2 things that Cuba does well, cigars and Iron Beer.  Mmmmmmm Iron Beer.  Here our some pictures from my adventure to 90 Miles Cuban Cafe, which is located at 3101 N. Clyborne in Chicago.  Apparently they have another location at 2540 W. Armitage, and perhaps that one is bigger.  Check out their website at 

Lechon Sandwich

Mistaken Lechon

Bistec Dinner

Iron Beer

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heed the Call of the Fish Lady

So, I ended up getting parrotfish from the Fishguy Market (discussed a few posts below).  My first reaction was probably the same as yours (what the hell is parrotfish?), but my infactuation with new (shiny) things overcame any apprehension I might have had.  The lady at the fish store said that it was a very flaky and fruity fish.

Here is a picture of the parrotfish filet before it was cooked:

The only thing that I miss about the suburbs is being able to grill food, but since I'm not one to let little legal/reality issues get in the way of something I want, I have an indoor grill.  I'd highly recommend an indoor grill to anyone who lives in the city or anyone who doesn't like going out into the cold, even though it may ocassionaly send smoke billowing through your house.  Anyway, the one I have is a DeLonghi Indoor Grill, which can be found at

Movin on....  I decided to make up a mango salsa to go with it because the fish lady said that parrotfish is fruity.  She also said that it was really flaky, so putting it on the grill would make it stick.  To remedy that, I wrapped it in foil before tossing it on the grill.  After about half an hour, and only one hand burning, it was ready to be eaten.  Here are a couple pictures to whet your whistle:

Overall, I would classify this as a success.  The fish was really flaky (as the fish lady said it would be), but I'm almost positive that's how it was supposed to be, and I could not have done anything to prevent it from falling apart.  If the mango had been more ripe, the salsa probably would have been a bit better, but you try finding a ripe mango in Chicago in October on short notice before you go pointing the blame finger.  Here is the recipe I used.  Go ahead and try it and let me know what you think.  The whole thing only takes about 30 minutes (Rachel Ray would be proud).

Things You Need (serves 2)
3/4 lb of parrot fish
1 mango, preferably ripe, cut into small dice
1 poblano pepper
1/2 white or red onion, sliced into discs
1/2 lime
2 tspn soy sauce
1 tspn honey
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt

Note:  While I used a grill go make this whole dinner, you could definitely use the oven broiler set to high to accomplish the same thing.  You may have to be a bit more watchful to make sure nothing burns, but overall, it's a similar concept.

1.  Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper on both sides.  Allow fish to come up toward room temperature while you prepare the salsa.

2.  Heat grill to high.  Once the grill comes up to temperature, put poblano pepper and onion on grill.

3.  While peppers and onions are grilling, wrap the fish in a single layer of foil.

4.  Turn onions over once they soften and begin to blacken.  Turn pepper over when the bottom blisters and becomes blackened.  About 3 minutes for the onions and 5 minutes for the pepper.  Continue cooking for another few minutes until onion blackens slightly and pepper blisters and blackens.

5.  When you take the onions and pepper off of the grill, place the fish in the foil on the grill (still on high heat, the foil will protect the fish from burning or overcooking).  The fish will be on for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness, flipping halfway through.

6.  While the fish is cooking, cut the top off the pepper and remove the seeds.  Dice pepper into a small dice and put in a bowl.  Dice onion disks into small dice and add to peppers.

7.  Cut along both sides of the mango pit to remove it.  Cut the mango away from the skin (preferably in one piece) with a paring knife.  Cut mango into a small dice and add to peppers, and onion.  Remember to flip fish after 5-6 minutes.

8.  Squeeze the half lime over the mango mixture.  Add honey, soy sauce, and extra virgin olive oil.  Mix well.

9.  Season the salsa to taste with salt, if necessary.

10.  After 10-12 minutes, remove fish from grill.  Allow it to sit in the foil packet for 3-4 minutes before slicing.

To assemble:  You could easily put a pile of mango salsa in the middle of the plate and then top with the fish, but for a more elegant plating, place a 2" ring mold in the center of each plate.  Fill the mold with mango salsa and press down  with the back of a spoon to form it into the ring shape and level the top of the salsa.  Remove ring molds and place fish on top of the circle of salsa.

I did not drink wine with this since it was 10:30 when I finished cooking and I have a bunch of law review work to do, but I imagine that a viogner would go well with this because both the dish and the wine have such tropical notes.   

That's all for me for tonight (at least about cooking), if you get a chance to try it out, let me know what you think.  Comments, suggestions, etc. are all welcome.  Goodnight!

First Follower

Congratulations to John Bathke on becoming the first follower of this sweet blog.  As a prize, he gets one free pie.  Enjoy it John, you earned it!

Fish Tuesday!

It is quite fortuitious that my inaugural post comes on my favorite cooking day of the week, affectionally named, Fish Tuesday.  I call it Fish Tuesday because one of my two fantastic fishmongers, Fishguy Market, has a sale every Tuesday during which they sell a selection of fish or shellfish (usually 6-8 options) for $10 per pound.  These options can run from fairly common fish including salmon, trout, or catfish to some more difficult to find fish like monkfish or mako shark.  I'll let you know what I end up getting for this evening.

I am extraordinarily picky about fish, to the point that I have never even considered buying fish from Jewel or Dominick's, simply because there is too much fish piled up.  Perhaps this is a bit of paranoia on my part, but fish is so delicate, and so much can go wrong with it, that I do not even want to find out whether my beliefs are well founded or not.   

In any event, it is hard to beat $10 per pound for fish no matter what quality fish you buy, let alone the high quality fish you will find at Fishguy Market.  Check it out for yourself!

Fishguy Market is located at 4423 N. Elston in Chicago, IL and their website is  Here is a picture from their website.