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Posts Tagged ‘green beans’

The other night Yuki and I used up another Groupon that was about to expire. We were intrigued by the $30 savings from an all-you-can-eat Brazillian steakhouse, yet one that’s different from the Brazzaz’s and Fogo’s of the world. This Groupon was for Al Primo Canto. At the time they had two locations, one at 749 N Clark and one at 5414 W Devon. The Clark location would have been a quick busride for us, but for whatever reason they closed that one down before we used the Groupon. Oh well, what can you do? So, we drove up to Edgebrook.

The location looks very generic on the outside. It’s a small little strip of storefronts right on the intersection of Devon and Central. The Metra rolls by about 1/2 block to the west. When we saw the facade we weren’t real excited about going inside. Once inside though, it was a different story. I wish I had a good pic of the interior, but it was the complete opposite of the exterior. It was very warm with lots of wood and really was a comfortable atmosphere. They do need a little better exhause system though as we both smelled like smoke when we left. The grills are in the back, but somehow the smoke fills the entire place. It’s not too bad, but will absorb into your clothes and hair, especially if you have a thick Jew-fro like me (and I’m just talking about my tuchas!).

The main difference between Al Primo Canto and other Brazzilian steakhouses is that there are no gouchos walking around with huge skewers of meat and there is no mile long salad bar. You can either order a la carte, or all-you-can-eat. We opted for the all-you-can-eat option in order to try out the various cuts of meat.

The meal started off with cheese pop-overs, flat bread, and eggplant caponatto. The eggplant was great, it tasted very similar to baba ghanoush.

Then they brought out three pasta dishes, all with fetucini. One had a mushroom sauce, one tomato sauce, and one garlic and herb. The pasta was all very simple, but tasted pretty good. The noodles were nicely al dente.

Next came the meats and starches. Fried potatoes with a blue cheese sauce, fried polenta with parmesan cheese, a plate with lamb and beef both grilled on large skewers typical of Brazillian steakhouses on top of sauteed green beans and pearl onions, and a couple pieces of grilled chicken.

They also brought out a mixed green salad.

The beef and lamb were a little dry due to overcooking on the grill, but not so much that it ruined the dinner. The flavors and quality of the meat were pretty damn good. I will say that the chicken was outstanding! Crisp skin and juicy meat they covered it in fresh sage. I liked that a lot.

I washed everything down with a couple of caparinhas. Not too sweet, but could have used a little more cachaca.

We split a flan for dessert. It was served with a raspberry couli, powdered sugar, and a blackberry garnish. It was ok, a little dense for our tastes. Don’t quote me on this but it didn’t taste homemade. It wasn’t terrible though.

As for the service I will say that the server and bussers were extremely attentive and on the ball…for the most part. We had actually commented a few times to each other at how good the service was until we asked for a box to take our leftovers home. That’s where the wrench was thrown. Appearantly they do not allow you to take home leftovers from the all-you-can-eat menu. I told them how ridiculous it was that they were going to throw away all of that perfectly good food that we were paying for. The server brought the manager over who, again, wouldn’t allow a box to be brought over. He said he’d have to speak with the owner and I told him to let me speak to the owner. So, the owner came over and explained the reasoning behind this. I guess people used to take advantage and would order more dishes just to take home. While I can understand that we were never even aware that we could order more meats or pasta. We were under the assumption that what was brought out was the meal, plain and simple. A little back and forth and finally he agreed to let us take our food home since the server never explained how they operate. I would have won even if the server did just because I’m an argumentative bastard who doesn’t give up. Plus, how can you throw away all of that food? This world is on the brink of a major food crisis. People in Japan right now would love a full meal to eat, not to mention all of the 3rd world countries or even a lot of people in America (Yuki even brought up Japan’s crisis).

In the end though, the owner did do right by us. We didn’t order any refills of any food so he didn’t feel cheated. Because of that we got our lunch the next day.

Overall, I would say that Al Primo Canto is a very average restaurant. The food is good, the service for the most part is good, but nothing is special. If we lived in Edgebrook we’d probably go there every once in a while. It is not worth a drive though. There are way too many places much closer to us that serve better food at similar or even lower prices. So, while we’ll probably never be back, I can’t say that the place isn’t worth a stop, it’s just not worth going out of your way for.

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The other night Yuki was craving a big burger. To be honest, I should have knocked her up a long time ago. Pregnancy has her craving red meat. I’ve often said that red meat is my favorite vegetable. She wanted a burger, who was I to say no? We had a Groupon for the Paramount Room so it all worked out a little too perfectly.

The Paramount Room is known for their $9 Kobe Burger. They also have a nice beer list. Yuki couldn’t enjoy the beer list, but I was more than happy to enjoy it for both of us, I mean the three of us.

It’s your basic neighborhood bar with exposed brick walls, loud rock’n’roll, and a TV over the bar playing the Bulls game (it’s still weird to see Hinrich in a Wizzards uniform). The menu is nice and short with basic bar food fare. We really didn’t have to look at the menu though because we both knew we’d be full of Kobe Burger way before we ever walked through their front door. And boy were we ever full of Kobe Burger!

I know the picture is terrible, but just imagine two plates with 1/2 pound burgers, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. On one we got the french fries, on the other we got the tempura green beans. The fries came with ketchup and a garlic aioli while the green beans came with a red chili dipping sauce. I got my burger with the applewood smoked bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and blue cheese. Yuki got the same only with cheddar instead of blue.

I will say, the beef was not Japanese Kobe, it was Kobe-style wagu beef probably from Nebraska (most beef that’s called Kobe in America is not from Japan). If it were real Kobe from Japan there is no way they could serve 1/2 pound for $9, it’d be more like $35. That said, Kobe-style beef from Nebraska is not a bad thing, it’s still a very tasty high quality meat. That came through in this burger as it was a very delicious burger. Very juicy and full of beefy goodness. They are also using high quality bacon and cheeses (no velveeta on this plate!). What really made the burgers stand out though was the sautéed mushrooms. I was fully expecting regular old button mushrooms, maybe cremini. No no no. They went full-out and threw some oyster mushrooms under the bun for these bad boys! While the flavor of oyster mushrooms was nice with the beef it was the texture that put it over the top. Very nice touch, very nice indeed.

As for the fries and tempura green beans, they were just your average fries and tempura green beans. They were cooked properly though and the sauces were nice. With garlic aioli on top of my blue cheese I was extremely kissable!

All in all I would definitely put the Paramount Room’s Kobe Burgers up with the best of them. Are they the best? Probably not, there are some damn good burgers around, not to mention the ones I grill up myself (ask any of my high school buddies, I am famous for my ghetto burgers). They are in the discussion though, thanks to the oyster mushrooms. With the Paramount Room being very close to our apartment I can definitely see more trips there in our future, as long as Yuki is pregnant and craving red meat.

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Friday night we went out to Sun Wah B.B.Q. with a bunch of Yuki’s co-workers. We had a big group of 12 adults (I still have trouble thinking of myself as an adult) including spouses and then there were 3 babies. For Chinese food, I think it’s best to go with a big crowd so you can order a variety of food.

The first thing I noticed about Sun Wah was that they had duck hanging in the window. You don’t see that often in Chicago which is a shame. Any restaurant that serves Peking Duck (Sun Wah is considered the best Peking Duck in Chicago, from what I’ve eaten here, I would have to agree) needs to display it in the window to dry the skin and show the customers what’s in store.

They have a huge dining room. I guess that’s a good thing because as the night went on they got packed! I think the wait was about 30-45 minutes when we left. Good thing we got there relatively early, although, we did have a reservation. Service was pretty typical of a Chinese restaurant. Not refined, but not sloppy. As for the food…

…the first thing that rolled out was the Peking Duck. Since we had two big round tables we ordered two of each dish so that we didn’t have to pass things from one table to the other.

Classic tableside duck carving. Slice off that crispy skin first and then chop up the meat. Really good duck. If you’re a fan of Peking Duck, and the only people I know who aren’t are veggies, you have to try Sun Wah’s. I wouldn’t say it’s really anything special, but it is the best in town, very good duck.

Lobster with ginger and scallions, what more do you need? My only gripe with this dish, and it’s not unique to Sun Wah, is that the lobster was all hacked up and very hard to get the meat from the shell. Why do Chinese restaurants hack up lobster like this? Surely there has to be a better way to stir-fry all of that flavor into the meat and keep it easy to eat.

Peking Pork Ribs. Thin slices of rib meat cooked in a thickened sweet sauce. There were slices of carrot, green pepper, and yellow pepper in it as well. If you like sweet Chinese ribs, this is the dish for you!

Stir-fried water spinach. We wanted green beans, but they didn’t have any. No worries, water spinach has a nice subtle bitterness to it. It’s also extremely healthy. A good vegetable to help cut through all of the animal fat we were mauling down.

Fried rice with BBQ pork, shrimp, scallions, carrots, and scrambled eggs. Another classic, but one you must have with a Chinese feast.

Shanton soup with chunks of pork. It’s the pork bone that gives this soup its flavor. This is to the Chinese kitchen what chicken soup is to the Jewish kitchen.

Fried noodles. For this dish they used the duck breast from the Peking duck (for Peking you only eat the skin and some of the dark meat), pea pods, baby corn, carrots, mushrooms, and onions. Personally, I would have used shiitake instead of white button mushrooms, but hey, it’s not my restaurant. Still a tasty dish.

Our last dish was silken tofu steamed with shrimp. It was topped with cilantro and swimming in a soy and broth soup. It was really good.

Overall, I have to say, Sun Wah B.B.Q. is quite possibly the best Chinese food in Chicago. While I am a true believer that Chicago does not have the best Chinese food in the world, this place is definitely worth passing through your entrails. Every dish was fresh and well prepared. Nothing was over the top, but everything was extremely solid. The best part was that all of that food, along with Tsing Dao and tip, only came to $25 per person. Well worth the weakened US Dollar.

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Last night we went to Millennium Park to see Tony Allen play for free. Beautiful night and fantastic music! However, because of this, I didn’t do much for Meatless Monday. Nothing worth blogging about anyway. Instead, here’s a dish that Yuki made the other night. Thinly sliced strip steak in Korean chili sauce.

She thinly sliced a strip steak that weighed about 3/4’s of a pound. Then she marinated it in a mix of soy sauce, mirin, sake, sesame oil, a touch of salt, black pepper, and toban djan. Toban djan is a wonderful Korean chili paste that most grocers have in their Asian section. I have no idea what measurements she used since I was busy prepping vegetables, but I would imagine about a tablespoon or so of each liquid is pretty close. That marinated for about a half hour or so while we got everything else ready.

For vegetables we used some green beans, green onions, shiitake, alfalfa sprouts (Stanley’s didn’t have any bean sprouts), napa cabbage, and some fresh corn. The corn was simply boiled while the rest of the veggies were sautéed with the beef.

She sautéed the beef first with some diced garlic in sesame oil in small batches until they were partially cooked. Then she set the beef aside and threw the veggies in.

First was the green onions for a few minutes, followed by the green beans, then the shiitake, and finally the cabbage. She let them cook together for about 5 minutes or so with about a quarter cup of sake added.

Then she put the beef back in and added the sprouts. That went for another 5-7 minutes before it was ready (had to let the sake reduce) to be mauled by my molars.

While all of that was going on the corn was boiling in some salt water. When it was done all I did was melt a little butter on it and sprinkle it with some salt. I was surprised at how good the corn was. I know it’s not our good Midwestern corn yet, that won’t be ready for a couple of months yet. This probably came from Georgia, but it was quite tasty.

Also, true to a dish by Yuki, there was white rice on the side.

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Alright, back in the kitchen. The one thing about traveling in the Grand Circle area is the lack of quality Asian food. We did find one really good Thai place near Zion Canyon, but Yuki was craving Japanese flavors and simple white rice. So, being the absolutely wonderful husband that I am, I made some chicken teriyaki with vegetables and white rice.

First thing I had to do was make the teriyaki sauce. In a small sauce pan I put in 1 tablespoon of sugar with 7 tablespoons each of soy sauce, mirin, and sake. I also added a few fresh rosemary needles just to add one more element. I let that come to a slow boil for just a few minutes until the sugar was dissolved. Then I set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.

Once the sauce was cooled I marinated some bone-in skin-on chicken breasts in it for about an hour at room temperature.

Then I cut up all the vegetables. Half of a sweet onion was sliced, one carrot into matchsticks, 7 good-sized shiitake mushrooms sliced, a handful of green beans cut in half, and half of a small napa cabbage head sliced.

I turned the oven on to 400 degrees. I took my baking pan and lined it with foil and then laid a rack inside it. I laid the chicken thighs on the rack, sprinkled them with some pepper and a few rosemary needles, and threw them in the oven. I strained the reserved marinade back into the small sauce pan and boiled it for about 15 minutes until it reduced into a BBQ sauce consistency. Then I took the chicken out and glazed it with the thickened teriyaki and threw it back into the over for another 15 minutes.

While the sauce reduced I sautéed the vegetables. I started by throwing a couple of diced garlic cloves into some hot olive oil. After a minute I added the onion. A few minutes later the carrot. Then I added the green beans followed by the shiitake. I let it all come together for about 5 minutes and then seasoned with very little salt, some pepper, and about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. I covered the pot and turned the heat way down to low. The vegetables at this point were mostly cooked, I just wanted them to finish off by steaming a little in the soy sauce.

I steamed the napa cabbage. That only takes about 4-5 minutes, so I waited until the chicken was just about done.

That’s it. A pretty simple meal to make but full of flavor and very healthy.

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Whole Foods had these fantastic looking bone-on pork chops for sale yesterday. With the weather being nice and all, I thought “I gots to grill me some of those!”

To start, I made a marinade for the chops. I grated an inch of ginger and two garlic cloves into my baking dish (I wasn’t baking at all, but it fit the chops in an even layer). To that, I added 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 of sake, and 1 of apple cider vinegar. I mixed in about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and some fresh cracked black pepper. I coated the chops, covered with plastic, and marinated in the fridge for about an hour.

For veggies, I did some sauteing in butter. I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and then threw in 3 crushed garlic cloves and let cook down for a few minutes. Then I added a chopped carrot. A few minutes later I threw in a red bell pepper that I sliced as well as 8 chopped green onions. Then, a few more minutes and I added some green beans and shiitake. I let it all cook together for a few minutes and then added a few tablespoons of soy sauce. I let the soy coat all of the veggies and then covered it and turned the heat down to med-low. I let the veggies sort of steam in the soy butter while I grilled the chops.

Since the chops were bone-on, the meat stayed a lot juicier than a boneless chop. I do want to mention that I took them out of the fridge about a half hour prior to throwing them on the grill to bring them back to room temp.

Some white rice and we were ready for dinner.

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So, I had planned on making sort of an easy-to-make paella for dinner last night, but the chorizo I bought tasted more like andouille than chorizo. No worries, it’s just as easy to make a gumbo. So that’s what I did.

I started off by thinly slicing about 4oz’s of chorizo and cooking them in a hot pan without any oil. I wanted two things, first was a nice brown crusty surface, second was some melted tasty pig fat in my pan.

Once the chorizo was browned I added 4 meaty chicken thighs skin side down. Before doing this I generously seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. I only cooked the skin side of the chicken for the same reasons I cooked the chorizo. Crispy skin and animal fat. Now I have no need to add any oil.

I threw in a small onion that I had diced along with 4 minced garlic cloves. I let those cook in the animal fat for about 7 minutes, or just when they started to turn translucent.

Then I added a yellow bell pepper that I chopped along with 1.5 cups of Thai Red Rice. I stirred that all together and let it saute for about 3 minutes.

Then I added a half cup of dry white wine that had some saffron strands soaking in it for about an hour. I scraped up all of the burnt bits on the bottom of the pan and stirred them into the dish (the burnt parts have tons of flavor!). Then added a 14 oz can of crushed tomato to form a base for the sauce, as well as 1.5 cups of chicken stock and a bunch of green beans that I cut up. After that I mixed in the cooked chorizo and laid the chicken pieces on top. I covered the pan and threw it in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

After the 25 minutes I took it out, put the chicken on a plate, added salt and pepper, stirred everything around, put the chicken back on top, covered it, and threw it back into the oven for another 10 minutes.

When I took it out again I took the chicken back off and mixed in a bunch of chopped parsley. To serve, I laid a bed of fresh baby spinach on the plate, put a pile of the gumbo on top, then a piece of chicken on top of that, and garnished with parsley. I drank it all down with the rest of the wine that I used in the sauce.

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Alright, so Tuesday night’s Passover Seder was spent at my dad’s. His Seder is different from the one with my mom’s side of the family. They do everything family style while my dad likes to serve each plate himself. I think it’s a control thing, but this site isn’t about psychoanalysis.

This is what his Seder Plate looks like. It has all the elements, however, he uses a roasted turkey neck instead of shankbone and a horseradish root instead of green onion.

Also, instead of putting Elijah’s wine glass on the Seder Plate, he puts a full place setting off to the side for him.

My old man did all of the cooking himself, which of course includes his Matzah Ball Soup. The main difference is that, like me, he puts the chicken meat back into the soup. I do have to say, this was one of his best batches.

For dinner he served some roast turkey, matzah meal stuffing, carrot ring, tsimis (a slow braised beef short rib with carrots), green beans, and potato kugel (basically a casserole of grated potato).

He freshly grated some horseradish.

And, of course, plenty of Matzah on hand.

I was in charge of dessert. I made a citrus sponge cake and served it with whipped cream and strawberries. The cake was made with matzah meal flour and potato flour. I mixed in the grated rind and juice from a lemon and an orange. As thick as the batter was with all of the heavy flour it actually turned out light and moist.

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The other night I tried my hand at making a classic home-cooking dish from Japan, Nikujaga. It is a stewed meat and potato dish that is the definition of Japanese comfort food. There are about as many different ways to make it as there are Japanese mothers (and Jewish husbands who cook for their Japanese wives).

The basics of Nikujaga are thin slices of beef (can use pork for variation), potatoes, and onions that are simmered in a sweetened soy broth. Frequently there are other veggies added such as carrots and peas or green beans. It’s really very easy to make as well as being healthy and delicious. It’s the perfect meal for a winter’s eve when served with white rice.

I made it using about 2 cups of water, 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1/3 cup of mirin, and a couple tablespoons of sugar as the broth. I threw that all into my pot with about a pound of large chopped Yukon Gold potatoes. I brought that to a boil and let the potatoes soften for about 20 minutes. It’s best to put all of that in the pot with the potatoes cold and bring to a boil together so that the potatoes absorb more of the flavor.

Once the potatoes were partially cooked I added about 2/3’s of a pound of thinly sliced beef. After that boils for a few minutes I skimmed off the foam that forms from boiling raw meat, much like I do when making chicken soup. The foam isn’t bad for you or anything, but by skimming it off you get a clear broth.

After the meat simmered for about 5 minutes or so I added a thinly sliced onion along with a sliced carrot. I simmered those for about 10 minutes. I just wanted them softened, not fully cooked, so that there was still some texture left in them.

Then I threw in a bunch of shelled edamame. Those don’t need to cook since they’re small and already cooked when you buy them. They just need to be heated through so they go in towards the end. After they’re cooked through I thought I was finished and proceeded to serve up the meal.

However, I forgot the last ingredient that I wanted to put in, shirataki. These are clearish-white “noodles” that are made from the starch of a yam-like vegetable. It’s the same substance as konnyaku, but in noodle form. They don’t need to be cooked, just heated through. They come in a package in liquid. Drain the liquid, rinse them off, cut them into smaller pieces, and throw them in to the stew for a few minutes. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic with the shirataki in the Nikujaga. Just imagine some opaque noodles in the stew and you’ll get the idea.

If you follow my recipe you’ll end up with about 4 servings. The only suggestion I would make, and it’s something that I’ll do the next time I make it, is to use Russets instead of Yukon Gold. Russets will stand up to the long stewing a little better as their a little more dense.

After Yuki ate the Nikujaga she gave me probably the best compliment I could have received. She said that her mother would definitely enjoy eating it. Knowing her mom and what a great home cook she is, that’s pretty high praise. I am now officially a Japanese mother! I may be the only Japanese mother in the world who is actually a Jewish husband without any children. That’s all part of my charm.

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I have to apologize to the environment as well as my physical well-being. There was no Meatless Monday last night. Cafe Hoang is sending all proceeds from yesterday’s take, including tips, to Haiti in order to help feed those who need. For my part I figured the least I could do was to eat some tasty food for charity. From what their website states, they’re doing it again next Monday, the 8th. I encourage you all to take part and keep my boy Jason Tran busy as hell cooking his ass off.

So, instead of a Meatless Monday post I’m going to tell you about a dinner we had at Yuki’s sister’s condo in Tokyo with her family last November. As you can see, it was family-style with some authentic Japanese flavors and some not-so-Japanese.

We had some shrimp tempura. Pretty simple, just fresh juicy shrimp deep fried in panko. Yuki’s mom scattered some cherry tomatoes, parsley, and little pieces of lemon around the plate. A squeeze of citrus, a dip in soy, some herb….makes me a happy man.

There was some Kuri Gohan, chestnut rice. This is a common dish throughout Japan. A favorite as chestnuts add a great flavor as well as nutrition to rice. Simply add the chestnuts to the rice while it’s cooking and then sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.

This is a Raw Tuna Salad that Yuki’s brother-in-law Jun made. Chunks of fresh tuna, avocado, and thinly sliced onion that’s been soaked in cold water to remove the rawness tossed in a vinaigrette. I forget exactly what he put in the vinaigrette, but it was something like sesame oil, soy oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and pepper. He lined the serving dish with some lettuce leaves and dumped it on top.

This one is a classic Japanese home cooked dish. Not sure what it’s called, maybe Yuki will leave a comment and let us all know. Yuki’s mom simmered some lotus root, bamboo shoots, green beans, shiitake, konnyaku, carrots, and chicken. Again, I’m not completely sure what the simmering liquid was, I think it was a mix of soy sauce, sake, and mirin. Maybe some dashi. Always delicious (at least when Tamiko makes it)!

We drank it all down with some Prosecco and some fantastic sake that we picked up on the way to the condo. After we ate we took turns kicking each others asses in Wii.

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