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Archive for January, 2011

Yuki used some of her United miles to get a coupon for the Chicago Curry House. I remember a couple of years ago she took me there for their lunch brunch. Featuring Northern Indian and Nepalese food I remember it being pretty good. When she got the coupon we figured that’d get us back down the Printer’s Row for some good Indian, the other night it did just that.

It’s in a very inconspicuous location. On the first floor of an apartment building its entrance is hidden behind brick just off State and 9th. What lies inside though is a very good, but typical, Chicago Indian restaurant. As usual, my phone pics turned out horribly. Deal with it and read on.

When we sat down we were greeted with pappadom and the usual three sauces, cilantro, chutney, and tamarind. I quickly ordered a King Fisher beer and continued perusing the menu, which is quite extensive.

Yuki ordered the Sambar Soup. I light lentil soup with vegetables it was much thinner than what we’re used to. It was very light, but very flavorful.

Our first appetizer was the Vegetarian Samosa. Some of the biggest samosa’s I’ve ever seen! Nice and spicy with whole spices, you can tell these were freshly made samosas.

Next we had the Chicken MoMo, Nepalese-style dumplings. Curry spiced ground chicken with a curry sauce to dip them into. These had some kick to them and were very tasty.

In order to try numerous menu items and ensure lunch the next day (two appetizers helped with that) we decided to get two of their “sampler” entrees. This is the Curry House Vegetable Special Dinner. It comes with Dahl Makhini, Palak Paneer, Aloo Ghobi, Navratam Korma, Chana Masala, Garden Mix Vegetable, Cardamom Rice Pudding, Raita, Naan, and Basmati Rice.

On this sizzling hot platter was the Curry House Non Vegetable Dinner. This contained Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Lamb Seekh Kabab, Naan, and Basmati Rice.

It also came with Navratam Korma and Butter Chicken.

The Chicken Tikka and Butter Chicken were two of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had at an Indian restaurant. The flavors penetrated through all of the meat while the chicken stayed nice and moist in both dishes. Absolutely fantastic chicken. The Palak Paneer was my favorite from the vegetarian dishes. Everything, however, was above average.

The service was nice and the space warm and inviting. Combine that with above average Indian Food and Printer’s Row has a keeper. While Chicago Curry House is a bit of a drive for me I don’t think I would go out of my way for it. If I lived in the neighborhood or ever crave Indian Food while in the South Loop area I will definitely make my way back. It’s a place that should definitely be frequented by its local townies.

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After trying to connect with a couple of our friends for a while, with whom we usually try new Mexican restaurants with, we finally got this past Saturday night lined up. Nick and his wife invited us over for dinner this time. I told him I’d make some dessert. When he asked if ribs would be an acceptable dinner my response was “RIB ME!!!” You can’t beat slow smoking baby back ribs outside in 10 degree weather. All you can do is hope your cold beer is enough to warm you up until the ribs get in your guts.

At any rate, that’s what happened. Nick smoked some ribs, his wife made a couple of sides, and I brought a cake.

He did the ribs right. Not sure what his recipe was, but he made a nice spice rub and then placed his ribs on a rack in his grill. The hot coals were spread around the sides of the grill while he placed a drip pan filled with some cider vinegar in the middle. The indirect heat kept the ribs from burning, the cider vinegar evaporated into the meat adding some flavor and keeping the meat moist, and the rack allowed the ribs to kind of baste themselves. 3 hours under the hood and they were ready to go.

After some chips, carrots, and dip (along with some alcohol), dinner was served. Nick chopped up the ribs for us and served them with some really creamy scalloped potatoes and nice buttery brussel sprouts. Good ol down home cooking. What else should have been expected from a Kentucky-boy?

I have to say, the ribs were excellent! I’m not just saying that because he’s one of the few who actually reads all of my blog posts. They really were delicious. The meat was fall off the bone tender, the spice rub and his homemade bbq sauce set off the meat nicely. My comment at the dinner table was, “Nick, I’d eat your ribs for free over paying for Honey 1 any day of the week!”.  A couple other friends were there as well and between the 6 of us we could only muster enough stomach for about half of the fair. True to his good ol boy hospitality we were sent home with a half slab. Gotta love that!

For dessert I made this Orange Kefir cake. I’ve been on a baking-with-kefir kick and wanted to continue that trend with something simple and tasty. I found this recipe by The Barefoot Contessa herself for a Lemon Yogurt Cake. All I did was substitute the yogurt for kefir and the lemon for orange. It turned out great, nice and moist while not being too sweet.

All in all, Saturday night was a tasty feast. Any time my buddy wants to smoke up some ribs I’ll be there to help polish them off.

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The other night I knew I wanted to make some spaghetti of some sort, but I wasnt sure what to do with it until I came across these beautiful little scallops. We haven’t had scallops in a while so I figured I’d just make a very simple tomato sauce with them and some vegetables.

Besides about 2/3 pound of scallops I chopped up 8 asparagus, 3 shiitake, 1/2 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 yellow bell pepper, opened up 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes, and got out 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce and sake just to add a little umami.

This is about is simple as cooking gets. While I was boiling some salt water for the noodles, I used half angel hair and half wheat noodles, I heated up my pan and poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I sautéed the onion for about 5 minutes before adding the garlic, I let that go for another minute. After that I added the shiitake, pepper, and asparagus and let them go for another 5 minutes. I added the soy sauce and sake, let them boil off for about 1 minute, and then dumped in the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes were at a low boil I turned the heat down to medium and added the scallops. Scallops can be a little tricky here because if you overcook them they’ll become a bit rubbery. On the other hand, they do give off a lot of liquid so you need to boil some of that excess off. I let them go at a very low simmer for about 10 minutes and it worked out perfectly, but each stove top is different so you have to keep a close eye on it. At the very end of cooking I decided to add a little dried basil along with some salt and pepper.

Once I drained the noodles I just ladled the sauce on top. I had some wheat dinner rolls to eat with it.

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Just saying Yuki’s Sukiyaki is almost as much fun as eating it. Sukiyaki is a traditional family style one-pot meal in Japan. Vegetables are simmered in a sweet soy-based broth.

Then the pot is brought to the table and, over a table-top burner, thin slices of beef are swished around (similar to shabu-shabu) and cooked in the pot. Each individual has their own dish to put the beef and veggies in. It usually is mixed with a raw egg, but raw eggs aren’t good for prego so we omitted that.

Ingredients for Yakiniku aren’t set in stone, what we used are pretty typical for the most part. I chopped up a carrot, quartered 1/2 onion, cleaned up 1 packet of enoki mushrooms, rinsed and cut up 1 packaged of konnyaku shirataki noodles, 2 large shiitake halved, 1/4 head of napa cabbage chopped, a little more than 1/2 pound of thinly sliced beef, almost 1 block of silken tofu large diced (I had previously used about 1/8th of it for miso soup, use as much as you like), about 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, 3 tablespoons sake, and 1-2 tablespoons of sugar.

In our large pan Yuki poured in the soy, mirin, and sake along with about 1/4 cup of water. She added the sugar and brought it up to a simmer. The onion and carrot had the longest cooking time so they went in for about 5 minutes, covered.

Then she added the rest of the ingredients minus the beef and let them cook for another 5 minutes or so. After that we moved the pan to our table-top burner and swished the beef in the boiling liquid. White rice on the side and cold beer in hand.

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Stanley’s had these cute little Boston Lettuce heads for sale. The leaves looked perfect to make a wrap with. Then I remembered talking to Yuki about how we haven’t had ginger pork in a while, actually her craving for it. Sometimes I get it. Not often, but this time I did. What better way to put some ginger and pork together than in the buttery leaves of some fresh Boston Lettuce?

Laap is simply a Laotian ground meat dish. I can either be raw or cooked. This one is more of a Southeast Asian flavor instead of a typical laap. I used a handful of parsley chopped (cilantro would have been prefered, but I had to use up my parsley), 7 shiitake caps diced, 1 yellow bell pepper diced, 2 stalks of lemongrass tender innards thinly sliced, juice of 1 lemon (prefer lime but thought lemon would match parsley better), 1/2 inch ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 6 green onions sliced, 1 head of Boston Lettuce large outer leaves used for wraps while the small inner leaves were chopped up, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of sriracha, and 1.25 pounds of ground pork. I also used 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, but that wasn’t in the picture.

I heated up some vegetable oil and added the lemongrass, ginger, and garlic. I let them sizzle for about a minute and then added the pork. I broke the pork up as it cooked through, that took about 5 minutes. Then I added the shiitake, pepper, and green onion. I let those cooked down for about 3 minutes and then added the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sriracha. After the sauces cooked down for a few minutes I turned off the heat and stirred in the parsley, lemon juice, and sesame oil.  

For side vegetables planned on sauteing some baby eggplant and broccoli with garlic, but for some reason I ended up quartering the eggplant and roasting it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes in sesame oil while steaming the broccoli with ground sesame seeds. I didn’t use the garlic.

The rice I made was Japanese style. Not really the best match, but not bad. In the rice cooker, once I rinsed 2 cups of rice and filled the bowl with the right amount of water I added 1 diced carrot and a few pinches of dried hijiki seaweed. I let it sit for about a half hour before turning the machine on. I made sure to mix the carrots and hijiki in well before serving.

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Oden is Japanese home cooking at it’s finest as well as being a favorite winter-time treat. While the ingredients can vary, the basis of oden is to have a slightly salty dashi broth filled with fish cakes, daikon, konnyaku, hard-boiled eggs, and potatoes. Slowly simmered and warm in the belly, this is true comfort food. In Japan, it’s served at home, in restaurants, at street vendors, and you can even get it warm from vending machines (you can get anything in a Japanese vending machine, and I do mean anything!).

To start I made a good dashi broth. I used about 1/3 cup of dried anchovies, 3 tablespoons of mirin, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Most oden sets come with their own little packets of soy flavoring. They are usually pretty good, but it’s just as easy to do it yourself giving you more control over the flavor.

I let the anchovies simmer in 4 cups of boiling water for about an hour. I wanted every last bit of flavor out of the fish and into the broth.

I strained the broth and discarded the anchovies. Then I mixed in the mirin, soy, and salt.

You can buy oden sets at any Japanese market and some Asian markets. We got two two-person sets that were on sale from Mitsuwa, each containing a variety of fish cakes. Some with carrot in them, some with burdock root, some grilled, most deep fried. We also had a package of chikuwa fishcakes that we used. I skinned and chopped two russet potatoes, medium boiled 4 eggs (just enough to peel the shell off, since they were going to simmer in the dashi for a while I didn’t want to overcook the yolk too much), 1 daikon skinned and chopped, a bunch of green onions chopped, and a couple packaged of shirataki konnyaku.

Once the dashi was ready I added the eggs and daikon and simmered them, covered, over a low heat for an hour. This allows both to absorb a lot of the dashi flavor.

Then I added the potatoes and konnyaku. If you boil the potatoes too long they will fall apart and melt into the broth. I only let them simmer for about 20 minutes. That’s also enough time for the konnyaku to take on some flavor. If you’re using sliced blocks of konnyaku instead of the shirataki noodles you’ll need to add them about 20 minutes earlier.

Since most of the fishcakes are deep fried before packaging they can sometimes have a little bit of grease residue. Because of that I boil and drain them seperately for a few minutes before adding them to the dashi, that gets rid of any unwanted oil. They also are fully cooked so just need to be heated up. After about 5 minutes in the dashi, along with the green onions, the oden is ready to go.

To serve it up I divied one of each for both of our bowls and then laddles some dashi on top. Oden is great with a cold beer and some white rice, I covered our rice with ground sesame seeds. I tell you though, oden is even better the next day. It is a stew, so once all of the flavors fully penetrate the ingredients you really have a special dish here. The daikon and egg for lunch today were outstanding!

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We journeyed up to Arlington Heights this weekend to stock up on Japanese ingredients, something we do at least once a month. At the Tensuke Market we saw this absolutely gorgeous salmon. They have the best seafood in town, hands down. This salmon was marbled like a real Kobe Ribeye, just made our mouths water. So, that was dinner last night.

We picked up a package of 3 quarter pound slices of filet (Yuki got lunch today, I didn’t get to enjoy that beautiful fish again). I made a quick marinade consisting of 1/2 tablespoon mirin, 1 tablespoon sake, and 1.5 tablespoons soy sauce. In a glass baking dish I let the salmon sit in the marinade while I got everything else ready.

For my veggies I used 1/2 onion sliced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 7 cherry tomatoes halved, 2/3 carton of shiitake sliced, 2 small yellow bell peppers sliced, and about 1/8 of a medium napa cabbage cut into chunks.

In a heated pan I melted about 1/2 tablespoon of butter and poured in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Once the butter was melted I added the onion and let it saute for about 5 minutes. Then, I added the garlic, shiitake, and bell pepper. About 5 more minutes and I poured in about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and let that coat all of the veggies. Just before the soy was completely boiled off, about a minute or so, I added the napa cabbage. I let that wilt down a little for about 5 minutes, seasoned with a little black pepper, turned the heat to low just to keep everything warm, covered it, and let it sit while I cooked the salmon.

Oh, and during this time I had the tomatoes in the oven roasting at about 375 degrees, I did that for about 25 minutes. I also decided, at the last minute, to make a simple miso soup with some wakame and tofu. I just boiled some water with a little dashi seasoned soy, stirred in some miso, and added the tofu and wakame. That only takes a few minutes.

For the salmon I heated up my large skillet and melted a little dab of butter, just enough to lightly coat the surface of the pan. The salmon had enough fat that I didn’t want to add to much more, but I also didn’t want it to stick. So, a tiny amount of butter. I seasoned the salmon with some crushed white pepper and then seared one side for about 3 minutes. Then I flipped it all over and poured the marinade all over it. I let it cook for about 3 more minutes and then pur the salmon on a plate and served everything up, with white rice of course. I garnished with a piece of parsley (only because I have some in my fridge).

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You can’t tell from the pic, but believe me, there’s a 1/4 lb cod filet under all of that chickpea and tomato sauce. This dish was based on a recipe from the old Jewish Ghetto of Rome called Tonne con Piselli. The original is tuna and peas.

For this dish I used a handful of chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds ground, 1.5 cups of strained tomatoes, 1/2 onion diced, 5 garlic cloves minced, 14oz can of chickpeas, a bunch of haricots vert, 1 teaspoon of dashi-no-moto, and a 1 lb filet of cod.

I cut the cod into 4 portions and laid it in a glass baking dish. I sprinkled it with salt and pepper then let it sit while I prepared the rest.

In a hot pot I poured about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then dumped the onion, garlic, coriander, and parsley in. I let that all saute for about 5 minutes before pouring in the strained tomato. I added the dashi-no-moto to 1/4 cup of hot water, let it dissolve, and then added it as well. You can use fish stock, but I didn’t have any, that’s why I used instant dashi. I let that come to a low boil, turned the heat down, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. I drained the chickpeas, rinsed them off, stirred them into the sauce, and turned off the heat. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and then covered the fish with it.

I put it in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. During that time I steamed the haricots vert. I served everything with white rice.

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As a big fan of the Polish Deli I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to finally get out and sample the goods at Kasia’s Deli on Hoyne and Chicago. I was actually first told about it by a tow truck driver last winter. I drive a big old green hoopty, better known as a Buick, and it’s electronics don’t do so well in Chicago’s cold winter. Last winter the beast died on me in front of my apartment and I had to get it towed to my mechanic. I hopped in the two truck and started talking food with the driver. He mentioned that he stops in at Kasia’s quite often and I ought to check it out. I held on to that advice for a year before acting on it. This past Sunday Yuki and I took a nice walk over there to grab some grub only to find out they were still closed for the holidays until yesterday. So, I went back yesterday and was rewarded with some extremely tasty viddles.

It’s not a large place by any means, but good things come in small packages. They make a nice variety of prepared food from different kinds of goulash to kielbasa with krout to pierogis to salads to all sorts of wholesome goodness. They also have some deli meats and cheeses that you can either take home sliced or have them make you a sandwich. At the far end is their homemade soups, pierogis, and blintzes. They also have a few refrigerated grocery items like milk and whatnot as well as a few dried groceries like breads and polish chocolates. The prepared food is all made in the back and is extremely cheap while using quality ingredients, just like a good Polish Deli should. So, I picked up a few things and brought them home.

Last night for dinner we had some of their mushroom and barley soup, rice with vegetables (carrots, peas, and corn), stuffed cabbage rolls (pork, mushrooms, and rice) with tomato sauce, mushroom and kraut pierogis also with tomato sauce, and some grated beets.  Everything was fantastic. Each of our plates cost about $6, that’s all. It’s damn hard to beat that for such quality food.

For breakfast this morning we had some of their blueberry blintzes. The cottage cheese and melon on our plates did not come from Kasia’s. I’ve made blintzes in the past, actually many many years ago, and these are every bit as good as anything I’ve ever made. $3 for a package of 6.

I have to say, Andy’s Deli is larger and a little better (especially because they also smoke their own meats), but since they closed their Wicker Park location a few years ago it’s not very convenient for me to get to. I will still make the occasional journey to Andy’s, but I am damn glad that Kasia’s is close by to fill the void in between. I have a feeling I’ll be heading to Kasia’s whenever I wake and know that I won’t feel like cooking dinner that night.

It was obvious that the lady behind the counter had a crush on me too (how can you blame her?). As she was bagging my food she asked me if I wanted a free T-shirt. It’s very hard to say no to a Polish woman who smells like kielbasa. Not to mention how hard it is for a Jew to say no to something free.

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