After the successful (guided) brewing and bottling of our first Porter Ale at Bev Art, we thought we would attempt to brew at home. With limited instructions in the kit (a Christmas gift), several foibles (check out the duct tape above) and some advice from the internet, I am hopeful that we will have a good summer beer to drink in a few weeks. Brewing beer really isn’t that difficult. It is just a lot of boiling and stirring…a 5 gallon tub of tea, if you will. However, sanitation is crucial (which made us paranoid) and some of the instruments are confusing for the first time user…especially when there is no illustrated guide included. We had to search around on the internet to find pictures to figure out how certain pieces went together.
I went to Belize in 2008 with three of my best girl friends and we fell in love with Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce. Supposedly, the secret ingredient is carrots. Whatever it is, I find the hot sauce much more robust than something like Tabasco or Frank’s (though they both have their time and place). Last year, I ordered more bottles of Marie Sharp’s online and also found Marie Sharp’s Belizean Season All which is basically a wet rub for meats. I finally broke it out yesterday and made a roast chicken smothered in the Belizean Season All (basically a blend of anatto, vinegar, onions, spices, garlic and salt).
I threw the chicken in the oven, we went for a run and on the way back, stopped at the local panaderia for some torta bread. Lunch was shredded, Belizean roast chicken on top of Mexican torta bread with wasabi mayonnaise, sliced avocados and Vietnamese pickled daikon and carrots. Joel’s sandwich also included Frontera salsa and pepper jack cheese. The sandwich was a bit big for me so I ate half for lunch and the other half later in the day. I also sauteed some sliced zucchini in chicken drippings and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I love zucchini!
When we get a chance to go to the Korean market, I’d like to pick up ingredients for Korean tortas…and more Korean tacos! We made Korean tacos last year but only took Blackberry photos.
Last week at The Publican, we had the Provencal fish stew with salt cod, shrimp, crab, clams, wild onions, potatoes and aioli which was quite delicious. Yes, they specialize in porky goodness but since this was my third time eating there, the stew was one of the dishes I still hadn’t tried yet.
After subsequent meals of booze ($10 all you can drink for 2.5 hours!), bar food, Pequod’s pizza, ballpark nachos and BBQ, I needed to follow up with something light…that also soothed my craving for more of that Provencal fish stew. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a while and a little over a pound of tilapia in the freezer. I picked the rest of the ingredients during my ceviche shopping trip.
As usual, my modifications:
- Used a half quart of homemade fish broth from Dirk’s, which is twice as much as the 8 oz. of clam juice called for in the recipe
- Added 2 thinly sliced leeks in with the onions and garlic. Clearly, I was pretty tipsy at The Publican because I thought I remembered leeks in the soup. Oh well, this was a tasty addition though it might have sweetened up the soup a bit much
- Added a shallot (of course) and an extra clove of garlic
- Supplemented my tilapia with some jumbo shrimp to get the seafood up to 1.5 lbs.
- Probably ended up using 1.5 cups of fresh tomatoes and 3 tbsp. of tomato paste
- Served with crusty sourdough baguette which I tore into little pieces and mixed into the soup when I was ready to serve
This is an amazingly quick and easy to make light soup that’s great in any weather. From start to finish it probably took less than fifteen minutes. It was soooooo tasty I was sad that there were no leftovers. The other nice thing is that its very flexible. You can use any seafood you want. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can substitute canned tomatoes. Throw in whatever vegetables you want–maybe some potatoes in the winter or corn in the summer?
This weekend, I had a friend visiting from out of town. After a long night (dinner at The Publican + drinks before and after), I thought we’d treat our sluggishness with some tortas from Rick Bayless’ new restaurant, Xoco. Through a series of illogical decisions I blame on the after-effects of our previous evening, we ended up at Frontera Grill, another one of RB’s restaurants next door. After righting ourselves with some coconut mojitos, we enjoyed some pretty tasty food, including his trio of ceviches.
On Saturday, after watching the Cubs lose at Wrigley Field, I came home to find that the DVR had recorded a Rick Bayless show all about ceviche. Needless to say, I was craving some more ceviche by Sunday morning. I may have even dreamed about it (ok, I definitely did). A trip to Dirk’s for some fresh halibut plus a stop at Stanley’s Fruit & Vegetables and I had everything I needed to make Rick Bayless’ classic ceviche (which he also demonstrated on his special). I halved the recipe , used a yellow onion (which I ended up picking out anyway because I dislike raw onions), used jalapenos and omitted the olive oil–turned out great!
- Make sure you get really fresh fish. I’m not sure I even trust Whole Foods on this. My distrust of raw fish from the supermarket has been the main reason I have never made ceviche before. Dirk’s is where its at.
- Getting 3/4 cup of lime juice by hand is not easy. We went out and bought a juicer after the fact. It isn’t electric and its just the cone thing, but it really would have made the preparation much more pleasant.
Logan Square, I’m told, is an up and coming neighborhood now that Wicker Park and Bucktown have been properly gentrified (for you San Franciscans, imagine the Mission but inhabited by less obnoxious hipsters). When I first arrived in Chicago, there wasn’t much in this area beyond Subway sandwiches and a bunch of taquerias (good but I can’t eat that every day). Twenty months later, there are quite a few businesses. Longman & Eagle opened a few months ago and it is now one of my favorite places in the neighborhood for several reasons. First, the chef is obsessed with pork and offal (me too!). They also serve a great selection of whiskey and remind me of one of my favorite places in San Francisco (The Alembic).
Since opening night, we have had dinner there at least three times. However, I have a big soft spot for brunch and was super excited when I read that Longman & Eagle would be serving brunch (btw, Chicago is an amazing brunch town). It was a gorgeous weekend day so we walked over to Longman & Eagle to kick it off with some bloody marys and eggs. I had the croque madame with a sunny side up duck egg and he had a pork belly omelet. Mine was the winner but his was also very tasty too! Can’t wait to go back and try more.
Unrelated, but a friend was in from out of town so we spent yesterday afternoon in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. Maybe next weekend, I’ll finally see the Sox.
There was a bunch of parsley and some mushrooms leftover from the champagne shrimp pasta so we made a parsley pesto with whole wheat pasta, sauteed mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and (Trader Joe’s) jalapeno chicken sausage for dinner. We used this recipe from MyRecipes.com but substituted almonds for pine nuts and used an extra dash of olive oil since it seemed a little dry. Although basil pesto is more fragrant, this is a great use for parsley that you don’t want to waste. A little fresh cracked pepper on top and you have a quick and easy weeknight meal!
This weekend, we went to the first shift of Baconfest Chicago which was an amazing display of bacon-themed dishes from some of Chicago’s best restaurants. Here’s a PDF link describing everything we ate. We walked to the event from Joel’s, stopping first at the Logan Square Kitchen pastry market to take a look and taste some samples. The event was a bit of a zoo due to the small space, multiple vendors and many strollers, but the pastries were quality. We ended up picking up some cheesecake brownies and promptly left. I don’t do well in crowds and was expecting a similar situation at Baconfest.
We were pleasantly surprised when we got to Baconfest to find a very civilized event! Considering Baconfest tickets sold out within ten minutes, I was expecting an elbow-to-elbow disaster, which it definitely was not. I think it was partly due to the 3-hour window for each shift (there were 2 total). From an operational perspective (hello, MBA here), they could probably have accommodated more people if they did four 90-minute shifts rather than two 3-hour shifts. However, I’m not sure volume was the organizers’ goal or whether the guest chefs would really want to accommodate that many more people.
In addition to the chefs, there was Bakon Vodka, amazing bacon bloody marys from The Fifty/50 and a slew of vendors in the basement selling chocolate covered bacon, house-smoked bacon, bacon-chip cookies, pig ears for your dog, bacon cupcakes…you name it! Not surprisingly, 12 bacon-themed dishes, 8 drink tickets and many samples (an amazing deal considering tickets were only $45) from the vendors meant we were overstuffed and ready for a nap. We walked slowly home with our bacon booty…but not before stopping at Miko’s Italian Ice for a refreshing lemon ice to cleanse the palate (which we traded for a bacon lollipop).
When we got home, we took a nap and then drove to the south side to bottle our first porter! We’ll be brewing a Kolsch this weekend. Here are a bunch of pictures. If you want more details, click on the image.