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Posts Tagged ‘shallot’

This dish is a simple riff on the classic Beef and Barley Stew. As cheap as stew beef is, ground beef is even cheaper. So, this is a great way to save some cash while still making a delicious and healthy dish.

For the stew I used a handful of parsley chopped, 2 tomatoes chopped, 1/2 onion diced, 1 large shallot diced, 3 cloves of garlic minced, 1 carrot diced, 9 asparagus stalks chopped, 4 cups of beef broth, 2/3 cup of hulled barley, 4 ounces of mixed mushrooms sliced, and a big sprig of thyme.

I heated up a pot and poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and added the garlic. About a minute later I added the onion, carrot, and shallot. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes and then tossed in the asparagus. I just wanted the asparagus to get nicely coated with the olive oil, so I only let it go for a minute or two before adding the barley. I let the barley sort of toast in the hot oil for a few minutes.

After that I poured in the stock and added the tomatoes and mushrooms as soon as it came up to a slow simmer. Then I dropped the thyme in, covered the pot, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the barley was stewing I made my meatballs. In a glass bowl I beat 1 egg. To that I added about 2 tablespoons of fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh bread crumbs from 2 pieces of bread, 3 cloves of garlic minced, and 2/3 pound of ground beef. I mixed it all together and then formed walnut-sized meatballs.

I threw the meatballs into the stew, brought it back up to a simmer, then covered it again for about 10 more minutes until the meatballs were cooked through. Then I turned off the heat, added the parsley, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I served it up with slices of french bread.

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When I went up to Sun Wah B.B.Q. for dinner the other night I took advantage of it being close to the Golden Pacific Market. I love that place, but hardly ever get up there since it’s so far away. I brought my cooler with me and loaded up on some goodies. A good portion of those goodies ended up in my Meatless Monday last night. In fact, I got the fried tofu specifically for it. I luz me sum fried tofu!

Before making the Thai Curry I put together some Thai flavored samosas. I had two red creamer potatoes and got a yukon gold (out of red creamers) that I skinned and diced, a lime that I zested and juiced half of, some egg roll wrappers (you can find samosa wrappers at some grocers or cut down some phylo, but I wanted smaller samosas so I cut some egg roll wrappers in half), 5 tablespoons of coconut milk (first thing I did was scoop the cream that settles on the top off and reserve that for the curry), 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, and one small shallot diced. What I forgot to get in the photo was about 1/4 cup of frozen peas that I thawed.

The first thing I did was boil the diced potatoes for about 15 minutes. Then I drained them while I heated up my pan and poured about 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in. I cooked the ginger and shallot over medium heat for about 4 minutes, just until they softened. Then I dropped the potatoes in along with the peas and coconut milk. I lightly mashed that all together with the back of a wooden spoon. I seasoned with salt and pepper and dumped in the lime zest and juice. I stirred that all together and let it cool, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Once the potato mixture was cool enough to handle I wrapped them up. I placed a spoonful at one end and proceeded to fold it up like a flag, leaving a little flap at the end.

I brushed the little flap with some peanut oil so it would seal together.

I lightly oiled a baking sheet with peanut oil and brushed the samosas all over with more peanut oil. They went into a 425 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, just until they became a nice golden brown color.

While the samosas were baking I put together the curry. In the red bowl is the coconut cream from the can of coconut milk (this not only is used for flavor, but I used it as my oil so there was no need for additional oil), 8 green onions chopped, 1 chinese eggplant chopped, 1 red bell pepper chopped, 1 large shallot minced, 2 tablespoons of ginger minced, the other half of my lime juiced, 3/4 cup of vegetable broth, 4 oz shiitake quartered, 1 package of fried tofu diced, 1 tablespoon of Thai Red Curry Paste, 5 baby bok choy, and two stalks of lemongrass finely chopped.

In my hot pan I added the coconut cream. About a minute later, once it started to lightly bubble, I added the curry paste (along with 1 tablespoon of fish sauce that didn’t make it into the photo) and mixed it all together to make a smooth cream. I added the shallot, lemongrass, and ginger to that and let them cook for about 2 minutes before adding the pepper, eggplant, shiitake, and green onions. Once all of the vegetables were coated with the thick sauce I let it all cook for about 6 minutes. Then I poured in the vegetable broth. When the broth started to boil I added the tofu and let that heat through for about 3 minutes. After that I threw in the baby bok choy. I covered the pan and let everything cook for about 4-5 minutes. When it was all heated through and the baby bok choy slightly wilted I turned off the heat and stirred in the lime juice.

I served the curry next to some white rice and garnished it with some cilantro.

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Last night was the final performance of Millenium Park’s world music series. They had two different accordion players, and I have to say, that is one bad ass instrument! Now I need to work on my air accordion skills. It’s a lot of fun packing a picnic and hanging out at the park for free music (I say free, but let’s be honest, we already paid for it with our tax dollars). At any rate, I had to make a dinner that would taste good cold. I thought that poached salmon on corn salad would do the trick. As usual, I was right.

The first thing I did was roast some cherry tomatoes. I simply drizzled them with olive oil and then put them in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I set them aside to cool down before packing it all up.

For the corn salad I used two medium-sized zucchini, one red bell pepper, and three ears of corn. I grated the zucchini into a mesh sieve, sprinkled a little salt on it, and let the juices drain for about 20 minutes. Then I squeezed it as dry as I could and set it aside for cooking. For the bell pepper, I just diced it up.

After cleaning all of the silk off the corn I separated the kernels from the ears. This can be a little messy as kernels have been known to fly around the kitchen as you slice them off, in my kitchen at least. I find the easiest way to do this is to cut the ears in half first. Then, I take my cutting board and lay it over a large baking dish. This way, when I slice the kernels off they fall right into the baking dish instead of all over my counter and floor.

Save the cleaned ears, they have tons of flavorful juice in them. I used these to help flavor the poaching liquid for the salmon.

To make the salad I first sautéed about three tablespoons of diced shallots in some olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then I poured in 1/4 cup of white wine (I used the same White Burgundy that I planned on drinking with dinner) and let that boil away for about 3 minutes. Once the wine was boiled off I dumped in the corn, bell pepper, and 1/2 cup of water. I covered the skillet and let it go until the corn was softened a little, about 5 more minutes. After that I seasoned with salt and pepper and then threw in the zucchini. I stirred it all around to separate the zucchini (it will become a zucchini ball when squeezing out the liquid), let it cook for another 5 minutes, then turned off the heat and moved on to the salmon while it cooled down.

I picked up about 24 oz’s of really nice wild caught salmon, center cut so that it was uniform in thickness. I had the fishmonger skin it for me. Fishmongers have better knives for that job than I do, plus I didn’t want my garbage can to stink like rotting fish. It’s always a good idea to let the fishmonger skin and gut for you. I cut the salmon into 4 equal filets. Before putting the salmon in the poaching liquid I lightly seasoned it with salt.

For the poaching liquid I used 1 cup of the white wine, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 3 cups of water, 1 bay leaf, about 2 tablespoons of diced shallot, and the naked corn cobs. I brought that all up to a boil and let it go for about 5 minutes or so to let all of the corn juice mix into the liquid.

Once the corn juice was incorporated I took the cobs out, gently laid the salmon in, and turned the heat down so that the liquid was at a simmer instead of a vigorous boil. It should only take about 6 or 7 minutes for the salmon to cook all the way through.

After I took the salmon out I seasoned it lightly with salt again, and a little pepper. Then I drizzled just a little olive oil on top.

I got out my little Rubbermaid TakeAlongs and scooped a bunch of the corn salad in, topped it with a piece of salmon, laid in a few of the tomatoes, and garnished with some cilantro. I also brought some dinner rolls along. It was absolutely delicious! It also would have been tasty if I served it hot right off the stove top.

The only thing I did wrong was a miscalculation on the amount of corn salad. When I cook dinner during the week I try to make 4 portions so that Yuki and I have lunch for the next day as well. I came up one portion short on the corn. So, if you try this recipe and want 4 portions use 3 zucchini and 4 ears of corn. That should do the trick.

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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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Our third Restaurant Week jaunt was for lunch yesterday at Blackbird. We had actually eaten there about 5 or 6 years ago for Yuki’s birthday dinner. I can’t remember what we ate, but I do remember being extremely impressed. We haven’t been back since but decided that a $22 pre fix lunch there was too good to pass up, especially after seeing the menu they offered on the Restaurant Week Chicago website. Wrong I was, wrong indeed.

Yuki started with the Parsnip Bisque. It was served with shallot jam, beautyheart radish, sturgeon, and sunflower seeds. Actually, this was one of the best soups either of us have ever tasted. It was creamy, yet light and smooth. The flavors were spot on. No complaints about this dish.

I ordered the Duck Country Pate and Mortadella with grapefruit molasses, black radish, and pumpkin seed brittle. This dish was ok. The pate was a little salty, but it wasn’t too bad. There was a lot going on in this dish and I think Chef Kahan could have easily simplified it, but it was decent.

Yuki’s entrée was the Wood-grilled Brook Trout with broccoli, parsley root, violet mustard spaetzle, and dried black bean. The fish was way oversalted and I didn’t notice anything that resembles broccoli or spaetzle anywhere on the plate. I can only guess that the powdered substance on the plate was the dried black bean. I think this was a case of trying to be too creative with a failed idea and false advertisement. Not a very good dish at all.

I ended up ordering the Roasted Chicken with charred avocado and house-made giardiniera. The chicken was very greasy, the giardiniera consisted of a few small pieces of pickled cauliflower, and the charred avocado was actually one tiny little dollop of some sort of avocado mousse. The giardiniera and avocado, while they both match chicken nicely, didn’t go well together at all. Two very conflicting tastes. 

We split the two desserts. One was Manjari Chocolate Pave with tonka bean ice cream and candied cocoa nibs. It was pretty good. The pave was nice and fluffy for being so rich. This dessert was a success.

This other dessert was written on the menu as Satuma Chiboust with campari, pineapple, semolina and zingerman cheese ice cream. What? I know that Chiboust is a type of cream used in pastries, but what on Earth is Satuma? I can only hope they meant Satsuma which is a citrus…or a city in Japan. I’ll go with citrus. This dessert wasn’t bad though, even though they can’t spell.

Alright, here’s why we were disappointed besides the quality of the entrees. The service was flat-out bad! Not once did our server refill my iced tea, he flat-out forgot the coffee that Yuki ordered with dessert (fortunately it wasn’t on the bill so I didn’t have to bitch about it, but she clearly ordered it and he clearly heard her), he never stopped by to see how any of the dishes were (always, always, always stop by to at least make sure things like chicken are properly cooked), and he just seemed to be an ass. In fact, most of the servers there had an attitude about them. They all wore slacks, button downs, and a tie (I’m sure a requirement), but all seemed to have an arrogance about them. I didn’t notice any tables getting very friendly service at all. The host gave us a little attitude also when she sat us. The staff matched the food, pretentious and lacking.

Another thing that I didn’t like was the table set up. I understand that it’s a business and Chef Kahan wants to make as much money as possible, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of customer comfort. The tables were practically lined up on top of each other. There was literally no more than 2 inches between tables, and that’s not an exaggeration (as much as I love to exaggerate). I had one table in my right ear and another in my left, I could barely converse with Yuki. The little conversation we were able to have was no doubt overheard by the tables next to us as we clearly heard their conversations. That’s a big pet peeve of mine. Give your customers a little space!

Also, Chef Kahan pulled the old bait-n-switch on his customers. If you look at the menu he advertised on the Restaurant Week website you’ll see a warm baby octopus confit with black chickpeas, asian pear, hazelnuts, and eucalyptus as well as a torchon of foie gras with black grape, spicy vegetables, and lavender as appetizer options. You’ll also see roasted squab and smoked sausage with sweet potatoes and junipers or braised short ribs with flageolets, fig broth, and golden turnips for entrée options. Sounds pretty damn good, eh? What happened? No octopus, no foie, no squab, no short ribs. Instead it was parsnip bisque and duck pate along with chicken and trout. Come on, chicken and trout? No way are those two entrees worth the price of admission. I get that sometimes ingredients aren’t available, or changes sometimes need to be made, but not one of the advertised items was on the menu. Not one! If you check the restaurant’s website, it lists a restaurant week dinner menu that is also completely different. They aren’t offering a restaurant week dinner pre fix, just lunch. What is going on? Had we seen the real menu there’s no way we would have made a reservation. Chef Kahan clearly wanted to entice people with a very cool menu and then cheapen it up to save some money. What an ass! You know Chef, bait-n-switch is illegal.

The worst part was what happened a few hours after we ate. Both of us came down with an upset stomach. No doubt the entrees were at fault, salty fish and greasy chicken. My situation ended with an incendiary display not fit for children. It was bad!

The whole point of restaurant week is to attract people to your restaurant. This trip to Blackbird did the exact opposite. It’s like Yuki told me last night, “You know, having been there before a few years ago I would have definitely gone back, but after lunch yesterday I’ll never go back!” I share those sentiments, especially with Sepia just around the corner.

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