I come across recipes all the time that start out fancy, get simple in the middle, and end up kind of fancy at the end. Does that make any sense? Probably not. I’ve been confusing myself lately so how can I expect anyone else to understand my brain.
Basically, when you look at this recipe, it’s full of fancy-like ingredients (as in, you might not have all of them just hanging out in the fridge… and, if you do, all I can say is la-di-dah, Monsieur Fancy Pants). The middle bit, making the recipe itself, is super easy. And, then when you eat it, well… it tastes kind of fancy. Not overly fussy, just enough to feel good about yourself. And, yes, the original recipe is from epicrack.
Red Cabbage Salad with Warm Pancetta-Balsamic Dressing
- ¼ C dried currants (cranberries or raisins will do)
- 3 T balsamic vinegar
- 6 C thinly sliced red cabbage (from about ½ medium head)
- 1 3-oz package thinly sliced pancetta (prosciutto will also work), finely chopped
- 1 T finely chopped shallot
- 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ C whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
- ¼ C chopped fresh Italian parsley
Place currants in small bowl. Heat vinegar in saucepan over medium heat until hot (do not boil). Pour vinegar over currants; let soak until currants soften, 15-20 minutes.
Place cabbage in large bowl; set aside. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Add shallot to pancetta and drippings in skillet; sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in currant-vinegar mixture and olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Pour pancetta mixture over cabbage and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand 5-10 minutes. Add almonds and parsley; toss to blend.
As you can see from this picture, I was a bit shy on the red cabbage so I threw in a few handfuls of mixed greens. Still tasted scrumptious. Stirring in the pancetta mix while it’s warm is key so that the heat and vinegar wilt the cabbage a touch. (Don’t worry. You’re not going to get a wilty salad… think of it as a veg tenderizer.) And, typically, I’d say just omit the meat to make this vegetarian friendly, but you really need the salty goodness that the pancetta provides. If you don’t have that, you just have cabbage.
Whenever someone says the word jam, I hear Carol Channing singing “Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday. But never, ever jam today.” (Remember? It was from that awful 1980s TV version of Alice in Wonderland. Carol played the White Witch. YouTube it. See? You bastards never believe a word I say.)
Now that I put that ear worm in your head, we can talk about brunch. More specifically, brunch at Jam. It used to be in a teeny, tiny space on Damen Avenue south of Armitage. Jam has the dubious distinction of being the first restaurant that we took Mr. Moo. He was like 4… as in 4 days old. (Nothing comes between me and brunch. Not even sleeplessness, a newborn, or post-natal blob belly.)
Now, Jam is in a teeny, tiny space in Logan Square. Because as we all know, that’s where the cool kids are hanging out these days. OK, the space isn’t that tiny. But, it does have a raised area so wear nice shoes and longer skirts unless you want to be judged. It’s all modern and gray inside with pops of lime green. So, if any of that scares you… well, get over it… it’s just that good.
Also, I apologize again to all of the diners sitting near our table when we were there recently. My son still doesn’t understand that throwing objects at strangers is wrong (and mortally embarrassing for his parents).
What We Ate
Mr. Moo inhaled the French toast sticks off of the kiddie menu (yeah, they’re hip AND have four items for children). I had a bite and I’m sorry that they were just for kids because, man, they are good. Crusty and kind of deep fried yum. But not weird and squishy on the inside. Oh, and real syrup which always makes me happy.
I had the eggs Benedict (because what else would I get? I love them so). The eggs were perfectly done and gooey on top of itty bitty English muffins and brown sugar bacon sausage. Yeah, I said bacon sausage. And, I’ll also say fabulous. Bacon sausage: It’s as if you read my husband’s mind and put eggs on top of it. My dish was a bit on the small side so I also had the scone of the day (and I got lucky because it was mocha).
Paul had braised antelope… on a polenta cake. (See? I told you all the cool kids hang out in Logan Square eating cool stuff like antelope with sides of red Russian kale.) It looked ridiculously good. I was plenty pissed when Paul refused to share.
What We Drank
I had a spicy bloody Mary which was served with a smoked mussel as part of the garnish. They do the cocktail right… not too heavy on the vodka, not overly crazy with the spices. Paul had a beermosa. It’s beer and OJ. (Hipsters. What can you do?) Mr. Moo had the freshly pressed green apple juice.
Just go. It’s good.
Location: 3057 W. Logan Bvld. Street parking is generally free if you can find it.
I just can’t help myself. I want a meat and potato kind of meal, and I start thinking, “Well, they probably ate a lot of meat and potatoes back in the day.” So my eyes come to rest upon Three Meals a Day: The Great 20th Century Cook Book by Maud C. Cooke, published in 1902.
There are three things that I love about cooking out of this book:
- Due to its age, I write out the entire recipe on a scrap piece of paper first so that cooking splatter doesn’t occur anywhere near the actual book. Since I actually rewrite everything, I tend not to forget items.
- There were no standards of measurement back in the day, so I get to guess what “butter the size of an egg” means. I mean, how big was that hen? Did you mean chicken or duck? So, globs and globs of butter ensue.
- The author assumes you know how to cook. She doesn’t tell you to cook the beans on high heat first and then simmer. She just says, “Allow eight hours for tenderness.” It’s up to you to decide how to get there.
Anyway, I found a pretty basic roast chicken recipe and a milk potato side dish. (Yeah, it’s going to be as gloppy as you think.)
Prepare and stuff the same as for roast turkey.
See? I told you it was easy. OK, here’s the recipe for roast turkey:
Pick, singe to free from pin feathers, draw, wash and dry. (My chicken came from the store… so, already feather-free. Just a reminder that our processed chickens might laden with salmonella, but at least we no longer have to singe them to remove feathers.) After this dip the turkey 2 seconds into boiling water, and then 2 seconds into ice water; this makes it very plump in appearance. (Again, I think mine was injected with something deadly at the processing facility. So, we’re good on the plumpness.)
Cut the neck off close to the body, leave the skin longer, draw over and tie, skewer the legs close to the sides after removing the first joint. Fasten the wings to the sides in the same manner, first cutting away the pinions (first joints). (Whew, I am sooo glad I live when I do.)
Put the giblets to boil in a quart of water. Allow 1¼ hours to roast a turkey weighing 10 pounds. If at all tough boil an hour or more before roasting. Some cooks parboil even a young turkey before baking. (What? Boil first then roast? Good gravy. Did these women ever leave the kitchen?) A little water will be needed in the pan. Baste with salt and water once, then cover with lumps of butter, and afterward baste with the drippings. Some cooks prefer to lay slices of bacon or fat pork over the fowl, fastening them down with small skewers. When nearly done, dredge with flour and baste with melted butter. Stuff with the following forcemeat:
- 3 pints breadcrumbs
- ¼ lb salt pork, chopped
- Butter size of egg
- Salt, pepper, sweet marjoram, savory, or sage
- 2 eggs, well beaten
A little chopped celery is an improvement; the eggs may be omitted and melted butter used to moisture the dressing (Maud’s use of moisture rather than moisten). Mix thoroughly before using. Sew up.
And that’s it. Oh, wait. What temp are we using in the oven? I don’t know; just put some coals or wood in the stove and start roasting. But for the modern world, you’ll want to preheat the oven to 450°. When you put the chicken in the oven (on a rack in a roasting pan), lower the heat to 350° and roast for20 minutes per pound. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
Well, of course, I used the bacon on top. I do live with my husband. Remarkably moist on the inside. Go forcemeat! (It also might be because I might have thought ostrich when I imagined my egg-sized butter.)
Potatoes Baked in Milk—Dutch Style
First, my apologies to the Dutch. I’m not really sure if this is their style at all.
Cut enough potatoes in thick slices to half fill a deep dish or 2 qt pan. Drop in butter the size of an egg cut into bits, a teaspoonful of salt and a tablespoonful of parsley. Fill the pan up with milk and bake 2 hours. The milk remaining in the pan should be thick as cream and the potato a light brown on top.
I’ll admit that I was scared of a two hour bake time and then I realized that my chicken was going to have to cook for an hour and 40 minutes… so, I threw in the potatoes first at the 450° temperature, turned down the heat when I put the chicken in, and finished up the cooking. Everything worked out pretty well and it looked like this… which, interestingly enough is exactly how I expected it would look.
Did it taste like scalloped potatoes? Not really. I thought it should have, but alas… perhaps next time I will use whole milk or half and half to compensate for not having milk fresh out of the cow. Also, please note the huge mess that was made from boiling milk spilling over onto that cookie sheet. Definitely bake this one on a sheet pan or your oven will be a disaster.
As I’ve mentioned before, Mr. Moo loves his carbs. Recently, he has started to really dislike eating fruits and vegetables unless they come in yogurt form. And, as all adults know veggies in yogurt is kind of nasty. Ergo, I’m always trying to cram more vegetables into the little man’s diet.
Enter vegetable breads… specifically, carrot, zucchini, and pumpkin/squash. I found this easy, remarkably flexible recipe in my Joy of Cooking.
Carrot Nut Bread
- 1½ C all-purpose flour
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t baking powder
- ¼ t ground cinnamon
- ¾ C sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ½ C vegetable oil
- 1 t vanilla
- ½ t salt
- 1½ C grated carrots
- 1½ C ground pecans or walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9×5″ loaf pan. Whisk the first four ingredients together. In a separate bowl, blend together the sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla, and salt.
Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Blend the carrots and nuts in with a few strokes. (Don’t over mix, but make sure that everything is evenly combined.)
Scrape the batter into the greased pan. Bake until the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 45 minutes (mine took about an hour). Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.
Here are a few variations that I’ve found to work:
- Add ½ C raisins to the carrot bread for additional sweetness. (Soak the raisins in a bit of water or orange juice to plump them up before mixing them in.)
- Replace the carrots with 2 C grated zucchini, squeezed of excess moisture.
- Replace the carrots with 1 C pureed pumpkin, squash, yams, or sweet potatoes. When making this change, use ¼ t baking powder (instead of the full teaspoon) and then add 1 t ground ginger, ½ t ground nutmeg, and ¼ t ground cloves in addition to the cinnamon.
- If you have a nut aversion, this recipe still works if you just leave them out.
Now, I’m not saying that this bread recipe is the best vegetable delivery mechanism, but when you’re dealing with a picky toddler, it’s a bit better than just serving up plain bread. For grown-ups, it holds up pretty well in the morning with coffee.
Paul and I recently went to another wine bar with locally-sourced, seasonal food in a slightly hip neighborhood. Oh, did I mention the small plates? Are you asleep yet? I know, I know, you can’t throw a stick in Chicago without hitting one of these places—good food, good wine list, good atmosphere, prices that look good until you get the bill and realize you’ve consumed 12 plates of food for a table of two.
BUT, hang in there with me. There ARE places in Chicago that are worth the shi (as in shi-shi… but not so shi-shi that I can’t be seen there… so just one shi). How can you, as a regular eater, discern which restaurant is worthy and which is just another faux small plate fiasco? Well, it helps that you’re reading my blog. That makes you pretty smart on your game. Also, when a restaurant gets a nod from practically every food writer in town, you should probably give it at least one try.
Vera is such a restaurant. In fact, I’m not going out on a limb to recommend it. Everyone else has already beat me to it. Located just off the Morgan Pink/Green line stop (and I mean just off… like half a block), it is squarely in… well, what’s that neighborhood… hmmm… the area that used to be the Warehouse District but is now the restaurant/club district or that huge zone called “West Loop.” (Seriously, Garfield Park could be called west of the Loop. And, it probably is these days.)
But, I digress: I’m guessing by your face that the Morgan stop is unfamiliar to you. As Paul said when we arrived, “It’s so new. This elevator doesn’t even smell like urine yet.” Ah, Chicago living.
What We Ate
Vera is Spanish cuisine, but definitely not tapas… even though I just said it was small plates. It’s good Spanish food. Think beef tongue pincho or duck paella with chorizo and chestnuts. That kind of good. Paul really loved the figs with bacon (Are we the least bit surprised? I said the word bacon.) We had a ton of dishes…all pretty fantastic.
When my sister went, she really fell in love with bread plate. (Which is a bit surprising because she typically does not feast on carbs.) It comes with a bean puree.
Next time I go, I want to sit at the meat bar. OK, they call it the Otro Bar (the Other Bar) but when we went it looked like the people were only eating cured meats. So, I’ll call it the meat bar. It looked very hipster to sit there. I can only dream that one day I will be as cool.
What We Drank
Wine. Lots and lots of wine. They also have a very nice bar area (bar, bar along the window, and a small runner along the wall) for sitting and waiting or eating.
The staff is also very pleasant. I mean, really just friendly and happy (at least the night we went). It’s one of those places that will make you feel comfortable.
Location: 1023 W. Lake St. I thought that they didn’t do reservations, but their web site says to give them a call. So maybe they’ve had a change of heart.
For me, winter always means red wine sauces. There’s something so hearty about a sauce made from a bold, full-bodied red wine. Or, in the case of this recipe, a dry red wine. But, in any case, red wine sauce is a decent staple when you want to whip up something fancy for meat.
I found this recipe on epicurious.com. It originally called for hanger steak, but I have an aversion to hanger steak unless it’s been marinating for a day and a half. So, I threw this sauce over filet mignon. I think it would also work over chicken, lamb, or veal (maybe not pork… but you never know).
Anyway, make your meat choice, and bring on the saucy wine.
Your Choice of Meat with Mushroom and Red Wine Sauce
- 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 12 oz assorted mushrooms, torn or cut into large pieces
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 4 T (½ stick) unsalted butter, divided
- Choice of boneless meat (about 1½ lb)
- Coarsely cracked black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 1 6″ sprig rosemary
- 1 C dry red wine
- ¾ C low-salt chicken stock
Heat 2 T oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat (don’t use nonstick for this recipe… you’ll need a not nonstick pan to get the right amount of searing on your meat). Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown around the edges (do not burn the mushrooms!), about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
Melt 1 T butter with remaining 1 T oil in same skillet over medium heat. Season meat with salt and cracked pepper. Add meat, garlic, and rosemary to skillet. Sear each side of meat evenly so that it is browned. (Here’s a trick for knowing when to turn meat over. The meat should release from the pan on its own. So, you have your chicken or steak or whatever in the pan and you think it’s browned enough. Take a pair of kitchen tongs and gently see if you can pick up the meat. If it seems stuck to the bottom of the pan, then you need to let it brown more. Don’t worry, you’re not going to burn it. Just try again in another minute or so.)
Depending upon meat selection, cut, size, and how you like to eat it (rare steak, for example) searing it on all sides might do it. If so, transfer to a cutting board. Let rest while preparing sauce. If not, transfer to a baking dish and finish it off in a 350° oven (chicken breasts or thick cuts of beef if you prefer them medium). You’ll just have to wing this portion of the recipe. I used filet mignon and it was a decent rare to medium rare after searing the top and bottom and rolling the sides.
Pour off all but 1 T fat. Add wine; cook, stirring up bits, until reduced to ¾ C, about 5 minutes. Strain; return liquid to skillet. (You’ll want to actually strain so as to remove all of the rosemary and garlic bits.) Stir in stock; bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced to ½ C, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; Whisk in 3 T butter. Stir in mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.
Service depends upon the type of meat. You can spoon the mushroom sauce on a plate and add sliced meat atop or add your meat to the plate and spoon the sauce on top of the meat.
Despite the pile of brown going on in this picture, the recipe is really good. I’m pretty sure it’s the combo of butter, meat frond, and wine that does it. There’s a subtle saltiness and a definite creamy mouth feel without being creamy in texture… if that makes sense.
I like radishes. There, I’ve said it. I like them in salads and even steamed whole (radish leaves are a little bit bitter, but taste super yummy with a touch of garlic and olive oil). Anyway, after a while, all radish lovers need a change from the regular sliced salad fun.
Then, my veg box came containing a lovely (and huge) daikon radish. What to do with just one? I found a ridiculously easy recipe at allrecipes.com. This makes a great cold side dish for Asian-inspired meals.
- 1½ C daikon, chopped
- ¾ t salt
- 1 T rice vinegar
- ¼ t ground black pepper
- ¼ t sesame oil
In a mixing bowl, toss daikon with salt. Cover, and refrigerate until 1-2 T of water is released, about 30 minutes. (Mine was more like two hours since I kind of forgot I was “making” this recipe.)
Drain and rinse daikon, removing as much salt as possible. Pat dry with a paper towel, and return to bowl. Stir in rice vinegar, black pepper and, if desired, sesame oil. Cover, and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
Tangy, tasty, and a little bit bitter. The original recipe said that the sesame oil is optional. But, I think it’s mandatory. If not , you just have salty radishes in vinegar. The sesame oil adds a depth to this remarkably easy recipe.