I’ve been on the road a lot lately which means not much cooking at home. The few days when I am home, I’m making a lot of stuff you’ve seen before. Last week I drove through Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana by way of St. Louis and Chicago airports.
Hooray for not crappy airport food! Chicago’s Rick Bayless just opened Tortas Frontera at O’Hare (right next to gate B10 in terminal 1–if you fly United you’ll certainly walk by it). The tortas are pretty much what he serves at Xoco, his torta shop downtown. But now I don’t have to brave the lines downtown! I can just grab it on my way out of Chicago.
I had a mango lime juice, pulled pork sandwich, side salad and large water for $24 (airport prices!). Everything is sourced locally–there’s a board that prominently displays where everything comes from. Service was smooth and while I was eating, Rick Bayless himself stopped in to check in on his restaurant which opened less than a week prior. In the future, I would skip the $4 cup of salad that was grossly overdressed, but the fresh squeezed juice (mango lime!) and the tortas are totally worth it.
I just finished reading Julia Childs’ My Life in France and was inspired to make her bouillabaisse which is traditionally served with rouille (basically a roasted red pepper spread) on toasts. When I got to the fish market, I realized it would be kind of expensive to buy all the seafood for her bouillabaisse…plus this particular store only had salmon fish heads (probably my least favorite fish). So, I bought a pound of catfish filets and made a variation of a fish stew I’ve made in the past. This time, I used:
- 1 leek
- 2 shallots
- 4 cloves garlic
- handful of shrimp
- 1 lb tilapia filet
- 3 large roma tomatoes
- handful of chopped parsley
- 3 large chopped swiss chard leaves
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Kitchen Basics seafood stock & sake
Though I didn’t make the bouillabaisse, I did make the rouille served on slices of sourdough baguette. Making this dish kept prompting me to sing 16 Going on 17 from the Sound of Music. Yeah, its “roues and cads and eager young lads,” but rouille fits right in there!
- 1/2 jar of roasted piquillo peppers
- ground cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 small peeled garlic clove
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
- Fine sea salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
- a couple slugs of olive oil
Puree everything except for the olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while processing to form a paste.
All of this was made while sipping on an Imperial Porter from Ballast Point. It is pretty good though the vanilla flavor is a bit strong for me.
I didn’t really know what giardiniera was until I moved to Chicago, where this spicy, pickly, crunchy concoction is served on everything…sandwiches, pizzas, hot dogs…whatever you want but giardiniera is ubiquitous. On the West Coast, people have no idea what this amazing stuff is and it isn’t really available. Luckily, in California we have all of the fresh produce available to make it at home.
- I only used half an onion and ended up picking most of them out after the salting stage because I don’t like raw onions. I’d skip that entirely next time
- I doubled the carrots & celery because I love carrots and had a lot of celery sitting around. I’d probably double the cauliflower next time too.
- I misread the recipe and only bought 5 jalapenos but it certainly could accommodate the full amount without being too spicy. I would chop rather than slice them next time as well.
The debut of the giardiniera happened on a faux Italian Beef sandwich (the quintissential Chicago sandwich). Faux because we used deli roast beef instead of hot dripping oven roasted beef. Melted provolone cheese on top of a toasty Colombo sweet roll with a healthy dose of giardiniera on top and we had a delicious sandwich! We’ll also be using giardiniera to roast cauliflower in the future as well. Joel’s been eating it as a crunchy side to Thai curries and Chinese scallion pancakes!
While staring at the grain bins at Rainbow Grocery, a man started telling us how awesome millet and cauliflower were together. Tickled by his enthusiasm, we added a scoop of millet to our cart even though it was something I’d never worked with (is it a biblical grain?). The butcher had run out of whole chickens so I roasted two legs with fresh rosemary & sage and salt & pepper. I also roasted a pear from our CSA delivery; just threw it into the roasting pan with the chicken, chopped it up and put it on top of a green salad.
I’ve been craving lobster rolls, but I couldn’t find any live lobster despite visiting two seafood markets. However, it is crab season here so I picked up two dungeness crabs for about $14 ($3.99/lb). I was hoping to avoid crab since it takes so long to pick but it was my 5th day off in a row and I didn’t have anything else to do.
After putting the live crabs in the freezer to slow them down, I washed them in the sink and steamed them for about twenty minutes in a mixture of Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, vinegar and 2 bay leaves. After an ice bath, I spent an hour picking the meat from the crab (and sneaking a few bites along the way). I also warned Joel this would probably never happen again…after this break I am traveling for work quite a bit, which means back to less time, less cooking and sporadic posts.
With two crabs (~3.5 lbs) I ended up with enough meat for about 2.3 crab rolls. I made the crab salad with a simple mixture of regular and wasabi kewpie mayonnaise (favoring the wasabi), chopped celery, fresh ground pepper, sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. I put the crab salad on top of warm toasted Colombo sweet rolls and served it with a side of celery sticks. A wonderful treat for lunch that would normally cost at least twice as much elsewhere.
It is no secret that I love grits. This holiday vacation means I’m not rushing to work in the mornings and have time to make a real breakfast. Cheesy parmesan grits with a bit of pancetta and a sunny-side-up egg. Finished with some black pepper and Frank’s Red Hot (not pictured) and I had a nice breakfast to warm me up!
I still have a few more days off so this morning’s breakfast will be a peanut butter and bacon jam sandwich. Elvis would approve.
Gougeres for New Year’s Eve from Jacques Pepin. I followed the recipe almost exactly though my stove was a little hot so the cheesy bites were done in less than 30 minutes. I used my cookie scoop to shape the gougeres, which tasted similar to the amuse bouche I had when I ate at the French Laundry eight or so years ago. Next time, I might try adding various fresh herbs to the mix.