Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Garden

Here are a few shots of this year's garden. After my initial trial this past summer which included a vegetable-heavy garden plot with potted herbs, I've decided to concentrate my garden space for tomatoes and herbs, specifically perennial herbs that will (hopefully) come back year after year. With the warm winter and spring we're having in Minnesota, we planted the garden on May 13th:

I'll make an effort to update the status of the garden throughout the growing season.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'm not dead...I'm just in Minnesota

It's been a very long time since I last posted way back on March 13th, but I'm still here! As of late March, my wife and I decided to relocate to Minneapolis, where I took a position with a bank here. I haven't posted much as it's been big adjustment with moving, starting a new job, a new daily routine, and learning a new city.

While I'll certainly miss living in Chicago and all that it has to offer, I'm looking forward to living in and experiencing a new city. I also plan on continuing my culinary education at home once I get our kitchen up and running and am looking forward to embracing Minnesota's farmer friendly culture.

I've got some catching up to do with the blog, including posting about our trip to Seatlle in March, as well as a reviewing a few Minnesota restauarnts.

Fine Dining in Minneapolis

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bouchon: Cauliflower Au Gratin

To go along with the simple roast chicken I decided to make Thomas Keller's Cauliflower Au Gratin from his Bouchon cookbook. The recipe calls for one head of cauliflower, but in retrospect two would probably be better. Once I cleaned the leaves off the head, I removed the florets and saved the stem.

First you caramelize minced onions:

After trimming the hard exterior of the stem, the recipe calls to put the soft interior in a food processor to mince and then add to the pot:

After adding some spices (including some spicy curry), heavy cream and while milk is added then reduced:

After the sauce has reduced, the florets are laid out in a pan and the sauce is spread over the florets. Before adding into the oven breadcrumbs are added to the top:

Here is the final product:

The Verdict

A very good side dish. Too often side dishes are made that could just as easily be a meal in itself. This dish is perfect as a side to a light protien, like the simple roast chicken.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Big & Little's Restaurant

Big & Little's Restaurant
939 N Orleans St # 1
Chicago, IL 60610-3001
(312) 943-0000
Big & Little's is new to the River North scene, but has made quite a big splash recently as it was the Chicago Tribune's Cheap Eater of the Year award winner. "Little" of Big & Little's was a contestant on Hell's Kitchen (he got kicked off quickly) but his only previous cooking experience was teaching classes at the local William's Sonoma. It may not look like much from the outside, but inside B&L is turning out great inexpensive twists on old favorites. Their menu consists mostly of seafood items like fish tacos, poboys, and fish sandwiches but also includes more traditional items like burgers and hotdogs. They've also become known for their "truffle fries" which are their normal fries topped and served with truffle salt (a simple addition but a big improvement that makes for tasty fries).

Here is the kitchen (that's "Little" on the left):

I went with one of their specials, the soft shell crab po'boy:

Overall Big & Little's is a great place for an inexpensive lunch (about $10pp) if you're in the River North area and you're in the mood for quality but casual seafood lunch items. The employees there (including "Big" and "Little") are alot of fun and are happy to long as you go somewhat early. Once noon rolls around the lunch crowd overtakes the restaurant forcing long lines and a lack of seats. My recommendation is to get there around 11:30 to make sure it's a stress free visit.

Bouchon: Simple Roast Chicken

A couple of weeks ago I received Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook. One of the first recipes that stood out to me was Keller's "Simple Roast Chicken," mostly because it was so simple. Keller calls for a "fresh farm raised chicken" so I made a trip to The Butcher & Larder (2323 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL) to pick up a 3 pound chicken: 

After we trussed the bird, Keller calls for only salt and pepper for the bird, no butter as is traditionally used, as he claims that butter creates steam and that he wants a dry heat to cook the bird. So we didn't use any butter. Here's the bird before we put it in the oven:

And after only an hour of cooking at a high heat with no basting:

Before serving Keller recommends some thyme, and to "serve simply":

The Verdict:

A very tasty and moist chicken. The flavors are very simple, but with a high quality fresh bird I'm not sure you need a whole lot more than salt, pepper and thyme. We were surprised just how moist the meat was, despite not using any butter in the cooking process. I have to imagine that this is a very healthy dish. After we had our fill, I stripped all the meat I could find off the bird and saved it for later, when I made some great chicken salad by adding a little mayo and celery.
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