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Posts Tagged ‘polenta’

Surprisingly, I’ve never made cornbread before. Yuki and I were talking about it and she thought some homemade cornbread would be good, I agreed. The only thing I disagreed with was that I wanted to make cornbread muffins while she wanted a loaf. Of course, she won that one and it wasn’t even close! I did find out though just how easy it is to make delicious cornbread.

My ingredients for the cornbread included 1.5 cups of buttermilk, 1 bunch of basil chopped up, 1 cup of flour, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of butter melted, 1/4 cup of sugar, 3 ears of corn, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1.5 cups of polenta.

In a large glass bowl I mixed together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Then I mixed in the polenta real well. In another glass bowl I beat the eggs with the buttermilk and then added the melted butter once it had cooled to room temperature (don’t want to make cornbread with scrambled eggs!). I rinsed and chopped up the basil and cut the kernels from the corn.

I poured the liquid into the dried ingredients and mixed it until everything was incorporated while being careful not to overmix. Then I added the corn and basil and mixed that in as well. I poured that into a buttered loaf pan. It went into a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

Once it cooled down it was ready to eat. It’s great cold, it’s great warm, but it’s best toasted with a little butter.

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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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I had an eggplant left from my shopping excursion to the HMart that I wanted to use last night. Not wanting to do my typical grilled-eggplant or stir-fry I decided to stuff it instead. Ground lamb seemed like the perfect partner.

Hollowing out an eggplant is a pretty easy thing to do. First, you have to cut it in half length-wise. Then, I took my pairing knife and cut around the edges of the eggplant about a quarter-inch from the skin, carefully making sure I didn’t pierce the skin. After that I cut a bunch of lines through the width and length.

With a small spoon (a serrated grapefruit spoon would work great, but don’t worry if you don’t have one, I don’t and I made it work with a regular spoon) carefully scoop out the flesh. Save the flesh as it’s going to be used later on. I sprinkled some salt all over the inside of the eggplant and then let them drain in a colander for about a half hour while I prepped the rest of the ingredients. This removes some of the bitter juices.

For the stuffing I diced up a green pepper, half an onion, a carrot, one tomato (I scraped out the seeds), some spinach, the eggplant flesh, three cloves of garlic, some rosemary from my back porch, a quarter cup of white wine, and 2/3’s pound of ground lamb.

I started off by sautéing the onion, green pepper, carrot, and garlic in a quarter cup of olive oil. Once the vegetables were slightly translucent, about 7 minutes, I added the eggplant flesh and let that cook down for another 7 minutes. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper and added the lamb. It took about 5 minutes or so for the lamb to be fully cooked. Once the lamb was broken down I poured in the wine, let it come to a boil, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Then I turned off the heat, added the rosemary, spinach, and tomato, and stirred it all together.

I wiped the salt out of the eggplant skins before stuffing them with the lamb mixture. Fill them up over the top, as much as you can before it all falls out. There will be extra stuffing, just put it in the fridge and toss it in some pasta or something for lunch the next day. I laid the stuffed eggplant halves in a lightly olive oiled baking pan and threw it in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

I had just enough time to make creamy polenta while the eggplant cooked. In a stock pot I poured in 4 cups of water, some salt, a bay leaf, and 1 cup of polenta. That’s enough for 4 portions. I brought it up to a boil over high heat. Once boiling I slowly poured in about a quarter cup of olive oil and turned the heat down to medium. I continuously stirred for about 25 minutes, until the polenta started to pull away from the sides of the pot. At that time the eggplant was done and I was ready to serve.

I poured some polenta in the middle of the plates, put an eggplant on the polenta, and topped it all with some crumbled cotija cheese. I served some white rice on the side.

Overall this dish was delicious. If I ever make it again I would make a couple of changes though. First, I’d add some spice to the lamb mixture, maybe some cumin, or turmeric, or garam masala. Second, I wouldn’t put a bay leaf in the polenta. That was the first time I used bay in polenta. It gave it kind of a medicinal taste. Yuki said it tasted like Walgreens. It wasn’t that bad, just not what I wanted. Otherwise I’d keep everything about the same.

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I know it’s hard to see, but there is chicken below the tomatoes and on top of the polenta. For this dish you need the chicken to be pretty thin. I picked up some cutlets, basically breasts that have been butterflied. I pounded them out a little in order to make the thickness a little more uniform. To do that I just put a piece at a time in between plastic wrap and pounded it with a skillet until it was the desired thickness.

In a bowl I put in two diced shallots, two diced garlic cloves, half of a large fennel bulb thinly chopped, a tablespoon of drained capers, the leaves of 4 fresh thyme sprigs, three tomatoes that I skinned, seeded, and chopped. I poured in about a quarter cup of olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and mixed everything up.

In a large baking dish I drizzled a little olive oil on the bottom, just enough to lightly coat it. I seasoned the chicken (I had four cutlets) with salt and pepper on both sides and laid them down in the dish next to each careful not to overlap any of them. Then I spooned the mixture on top of each piece to cover the chicken completely. I drizzled a little more olive oil on top and threw it into a 450 degree oven for about 2o minutes. Once out of the oven I garnished with thinly sliced basil and chopped fennel fronds.

While that was going on I made the polenta and some bacon-wrapped asparagus. After I skinned the tomatoes for the chicken I used the same boiling water to blanch the asparagus. After a few minutes in the boiling water I took the asparagus out and put it into a bowl of ice water to shock it. Then I wrapped them in bacon and set aside until cooking time. To cook them I heated up a pan and poured in just a little olive oil and then fried all of the asparagus turning to cook all sides. When the bacon was fully cooked I poured in a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and shook the pan around to coat all of the bacon.

There are different ways to cook polenta. The rule of thumb that I live by is 4 cups of liquid for each cup of polenta. So, I took 2 cups of the asparagus boiling water, 1 cup of chicken stock, and one cup of soy milk. I brought it all to a boil with salt and pepper. Once it was boiling, in a slow steady stream, I poured the polenta in constantly whisking. Once all of the polenta was in I continued to whisk for a few minutes. Then I turned the heat down to med-low, covered the pot, and came back to whisk every few minutes. When I got to the consistency I desired, I turned off the heat and whisked in 4 tablespoons of butter in small chunks, one chunk at a time. Then I threw in a handful of parmesan cheese and stirred that all in. That’s it.

The only thing I will do differently if I make this dish again is that I’ll saute the shallots and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes before mixing them into the fennel and tomato mixture. They were a bit sharp, so by cooking them a little first the sweetness will come out a little more. Otherwise this is a very simple and delicious way to have chicken.

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