Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fish Tuesday 2.0 (a.k.a. Fish Wednesday)

One Sunday afternoon, we were wandering around near the train station when we saw a sign for something called "French Market."  Our interest piqued, and we ventured inside what I was sure was part of the train station (it was) to figure out what exactly the French Market was.  To my never ending delight, what was once a urine-soaked haven for Chicago's denizens of the night, had been transformed into something of a permanent farmer's market.  After gleefully walking up and down the aisles, viewing the vendors' wares, I finally came upon the butcher/fishmonger.  It was here that the idea of Fish Wednesday was born.  If you have been reading this blog for long, you will know that one of my favorite parts, if not my favorite, of being unemployed was Fish Tuesdays at the Fishguy Market, so needless today I was thrilled at the prospect of a weekly fish day returning.  Anyway, the French Market is located between Randolph and Washington with entrances on either Clinton or Canal.  The website is

Since the glorious discovery of the French Market, I have cooked for two Fish Wednesdays.  The first one turned out relatively decent, but as you can see, I tweaked and changed it all a bit to make it even better. 

For the first recipe, I got the recipe for the bbq sauce out of a magazine that arrived at work (sorry, I forgot which one).  I thought that it would go perfectly with fish since it was light and fruity, but the recipe without my modifications, was awful.  I think there is some promise in it, but I'd definitely cut down on both the tomato juice and tomato paste.  Fortunately, the mustard glaze was so good that I kind of forgot about the awful bbq sauce.

Salmon with Blackberry-Bourbon BBQ Sauce (serves 2)
2 salmon fillets
4 tbsp grain mustard
5 tbsp sugar (I used regular sugar, though next time, I'd use brown)
1 tspn soy sauce
0.5 cups blackberry jam
0.75 cup tomato juice
0.5 cup tomato paste
0.25 cup bourbon (more if you want to drink some, which I'd highly recommend)
2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp dijon mustard
0.25 tspn cayenne (adjust if you want it more or less spicy)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
0.5 tbsp chile powder
kosher salt

1.  Mix grain mustard, soy sauce, and sugar in a bowl to form a thick paste.  Salt and pepper salmon, then spread the mustard glaze on the salmon liberally.  Let the salmon sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes so it is no longer chilled.
2.  Mix all other ingredients in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Set the pan over medium-low heat and cook for about 20-25 minutes.
3.  While the sauce is cooking, preheat the oven to 450.  When the oven reaches that temperature, put the salmon in the oven on a baking sheet covered with foil.  Let the salmon cook for 10-12 minutes.
4.  Drizzle some sauce (if you like it) on to the salmon and enjoy.  I think I would serve this with green beans or spinach.

Here is my tweaks and upgrades on that recipes, including the scrapping of the bbq sauce entirely.  This very well may be the best fish dish that I've ever cooked.  I got this recipe from the recipe finder on, but it was so poorly written and confusing that I pretty much made up my own method of doing it.  You have to be vigilant when making this since there is a bunch of stuff going on at once.

Part 2
2 mahi mahi filets (though any light fish fillets will be fine).
2 slices of bacon
6-8 red potatoes, sliced into thin discs
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
olive oil
2 beets, peeled and sliced into batons
3 cups baby spinach
0.25 cups white wine
0.5 tspn white wine vinegar
1 tbsp butter
0.5 cups white wine
juice from 0.75 lemon
3 bay leaves
0.25 cups cream
1 tbsp grain mustard
4 tbsp butter, cut into 1 tbsp chunks

1.  Preheat oven to 450.
2.  Put potato discs in a single layer on a foil-covered baking sheet.  Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Put in oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes until they turn nicely brown.
3.  Wrap each mahi mahi filet with a piece of bacon, being sure that the bacon does not overlap itself.  Salt and pepper and set to the side.
4.  For the sauce, in a medium sauce pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat.  When melted add 1 of the diced shallots and cook until just turning brown (about 3 minutes).  Add bay leaves and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.  Deglaze with 0.5 cup of white wine.  Sprinkle in the lemon juice and let it reduce until it looks syrupy.
5.  While sauce is reducing, film a large saute pan with olive oil and heat it over medium-high heat.  Add in the remaining diced shallot and the garlic and cook until turning brown (about 1 minute).   Add the beets and cook, stirring constantly, until the shallots are nicely browned.  Deglaze with the 0.25 cup of white wine and then add in the vinegar.  Reduce heat to medium-low and stir while it all cooks together and pan is nearly dry.  Add in the spinach and stir it around until the spinach has wilted.
6.  Film a frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Put the fish, presentation side down, into the pan and cook for 1 minute until bacon is nicely browned.  Flip fish over and cook for another 1 minute.
7.  While fish is cooking, remove the potatoes from the oven and set aside.  Opening the oven should reduce the oven temperature to about 425.  Set the oven for 425 and put in the pan with the fish for about 6 minutes.  Turn off the oven.  While you are completing everything else, put the potatoes in the warm oven to heat up.
8.  Now that the sauce is reduced to a syrup, add in the cream and mustard and return to a boil, whisking.  Once it is boiling again, whisk in 4 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp at a time, adding a new one only when the previous one has been incorporated.  Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a cup or bowl.
9.  After that whole marathon, here is how I plated it.  Put a ring of potatoes down around the plate.  Put a large spoonful of spinach and beets in the center.  Top that with the fish and then drizzle with the strained sauce.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Da Bears!

I promised Mrs. Urgo that I would put this up, so here we go!  Two Sundays ago, the Bears began what we all surely expected to be a middling or even disappointing 2010 season.  However, in the spirit of hope, competitiveness, and drinking, we all crowded around the television for at least the first week of football.  We had the privilege of watching the game at the fabulous Casa de Urgo in Elmhurst (and using the awesome kitchen).

Since football pairs best with red meat for some reason, we decided to grill some steaks.  Also, since no one would stand for me spending 3 hours cooking in the morning and making a giant mess, I wanted to keep it simple.  After much conversing, we settled on steaks with a shallot and port butter with a side of secret potatoes.  I'm not sure how she got the secret recipe, but since they were delicious, I imagine it was probably something pretty wild, which I would love to do not want to hear about.

I made the butter the night before just because it was not feasible to do in the morning of the game.  I told Jessica that we should get ribeye, filet, or NY Strip.  I figured ribeye would be the best option since it is the least expensive, however; apparently the world went crazy when she went to buy the meat and the ribeyes were over $150, so we ended up with some even better porterhouse steaks.  Great success!

Our goal was to eat at halftime, and the way the Bears were barely keeping up with the hapless Lions, we figured a disappointing end could be in store for us.  The fact that it was against Detroit made it even more disheartening since you all know, or should know, about my deep animosity for Detroit.

As for my steak cooking showing that day, I would give myself a B-.  Some of the steaks were cooked correctly, while others were kind of overcooked.  I purposefully added time from how I usually cook steaks since the last steaks I cooked were woefully undercooked, but that was more likely caused by the steaks being exceptionally thick instead rather than the usual timing being off.  Next time it is 4 minutes per side, and no more, E. Coli be damned. 

The one thing that I made that surely shined through was the delicious shallot and port butter, which Mrs. Urgo kept and was apparently spreading on lots of other things in the following week(s).  As we all know the Bears ended up winning because God hates Detroit.  Here is the recipe for the butter, so you too can revel in the Lions losing the next time.

1 stick plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 shallot, diced
0.5 cups ruby port
0.5 cups cabernet sauvignon
pinch of cardamom
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
kosher salt

1.  Take stick of butter out of the fridge or freezer and let it sit out for an hour or two to soften.
2.  Melt the other 1 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
3.  Put the garlic and the shallot in the melted butter and cook until just starting to turn brown about 4-5 minutes.
4.  Add in the cardamom and pepper and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5.  Pour in the port and cabernet.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook for about 20 minutes until wine is thick and syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup.  Remove from heat and let it cool for a while until close to room temperature (you can put it in the fridge if you want).
6.  Mash up the softened butter in a bowl with the red wine vinegar and a little salt.
7.  Pour the reduced port and shallot mixture into the butter and stir together with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
8.  Spread out some plastic wrap on the counter.  Spread the butter mixture across one end of the plastic and roll it up in the plastic wrap so it looks like a burrito.  Twist the ends to make it tight.  Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. 
9.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


A few weeks ago I went to Gilt Bar, which is probably my current favorite regular restaurant in the city.  They do really simple food, but they do it very well.  I had a dish there called "The Purist," which was simply pasta, parmesan, and black pepper.  For having so few ingredients that we eat all the time, it was mindblowing.

One night after eating this delightful pasta, I was craving it at home, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I had no idea how they actually prepared it, so I went to improvise.  I was about halfway through the sauce (and thinking about cheesecake for some reason) when I realized that the sauce was way too thin.  I didnt want to put flour in it because I don't like thickening sauces with flour.  Looking through my fridge, I pushed aside the milk and eggs, and sitting there, like the hidden grail, was the answer!  Cream cheese!  I sliced off about an ounce of it and put it in the sauce to add some body, and it turned out just like I hoped.  I also started thawing some chicken, but it wasn't thawed in time, so I didn't use it.  That was a fortuitous turn of events, since I ended up liking the dish way better than I would have if the chicken ended up in it.  I'm pretty sure it was the best pasta I've ever cooked, and I'm glad Gilt Bar inspired me.

Anyway, here is the recipe.

1 box penne pasta
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 oz. cream cheese
kosher salt
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach
2 tbsp butter
4 cloves of garlic, diced
black truffle oil (optional)

1.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until just starting to brown.
2.  Add in chicken stock and cream and cook until simmering.
3.  Add cream cheese and whisk until it is melted and incorporated.
4.  Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes until reduced slightly.
5.  Meanwhile, start a large pot of water boiling, salt it, and add the pasta to begin cooking for about 8 minutes or until pasta is al dente.
6.  Put spinach in the bottom of the service bowl.
7.  When the sauce has reduced a little, add in a pinch of parmesan and whisk until combined.  Continue this process until only about 1/4 of a cup of cheese remains.  Reserve the cheese on the side to finish the dish.
8.  Add salt and pepper to the sauce to taste.
9.  When pasta is done, drain it and put it over the spinach and toss to combine.  Pour the sauce over the top and toss again.  Cover with foil to hold the heat in and cook the spinach.
10.  Remove the foil and lightly drizzle with black truffle oil, if using.