After being disappointed by several new highly regarded, cheffy cookbooks over the winter, I decided to pull in the reins a little and look to some of the classic teaching cookbooks – I mean, I could not stop buying them altogether. In an earlier post, I referenced the Good Cook series as great resources, so I picked up a rare UK only edition on Game. Searching for old cookbooks reads a bit as I was record collecting and it is not entirely far off. There is a collection aspect to it. There is the thrill of the hunt, like record collecting. And like collecting classic records, the content is, in many cases, timeless when you hit on some great books. When I was searching for the Good Cook “Game” book, the Foods of the World series kept coming up in searches. Like the Good Cook series, it is a Time-Life series, but from earlier on - the late 1960s/early 1970s. When I looked into the books, it seemed the be encyclopaedic – 54 volumes with narrative and recipes. I found a used complete set online for a few bucks per book and picked it up in short order. Continue reading
Most parents I know talk about their kids (at least a little – maybe a little too much at times, amirite?) and, when their kids are not around, they talk about their favorite moments which may be embarrassing or offbeat. I love being a parent – it is my favorite role – and I take pleasure in seeing my girls have their own kind of fun, but it is particularly special when we find a common bit of fun. Continue reading
Chef Mark Mendez runs the kitchen at his West Loop restaurant Vera. It is no secret that Vera is one of my favorite restaurants in town. Food is simple without being simple. Complex flavors and textures are everywhere, but nothing seems fussed over and no extra ingredients are strewn across the plate. His philosophy of keeping things simple and making sure everything included is high quality and necessary inspired most of my decisions in my kitchen design project and one of the first things cooked in the kitchen, these beef tongue and caper sausages, were inspired by a signature Mendez dish – the Beef Tongue Pincho. Continue reading
St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty serious holiday for my family and not in the “green beer and pass out before it is dark” kind of serious either. Every year, I tell myself that we will just grab some corned beef from the store and do it cliche and every year, I decide not to go that route. Continue reading
In the conceptual phase of Christmas Eve dinner, this was supposed to be a traditional suckling porchetta (not just the loin wrapped in the belly, but the whole beast rolled) and it was supposed to be eaten over dinner. Porchetta is a great dish, and currently ranks highly on the hot list, for better or worse, but like many Christmas ideas, concepts are one thing, but you add in other people’s plans and execution becomes another. Continue reading
After over seven months preparing, early October brought my first marathon. Without going into too much detail, it went well, very well for a first marathon, but coming out on the other side, I knew that I would need a break, and more importantly, L would need a break. She was the one caring for the girls during my training runs. With that in mind, a few months back, we scheduled a kid-free weekend in the Northwoods of Wisconsin for the weekend following my race.
A fall weekend in the woods away from kids meant that we will both do our favorite things, L will sleep and read and I will cook and read. Our plans were only bolstered by the weather – it was cold and sunny on day one, but cold and rainy the next two days. It was perfect. We moved from couch to couch reading. I would get up to tinker with my new Aeropress coffee maker or grab a bite of cheese or feed the fire in the fireplace. As meal time approached, I would move my tinker from coffee to food. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, Chris Cosentino, a meat hero of mine, stopped through Chicago doing publicity for his book. His book is wonderful, focussing more on vegetables than I would have expected, and shows off some terribly exciting beginnings to meals. Our current favorite from the book is a dish of strawberries and favas, but something that we tasted at his dinner at the Publican has stuck with me the most. The dish was a fantastic plate of pasta sauced with capers, olives, and tomato – a simple puttanesca – only the pasta was not made from flour and eggs, but from pork skin. Continue reading
I am going to say it. I do not like cooking fish. I barely like eating cooked fish, but I really, truly, honestly dislike cooking fish. Unlike most things that I don’t like to do, I do not feel like fish cookery is something that I need to get past. I am perfectly happy honoring the mighty fish by fire by leaving it to the experts. However, one project by the amazing “Ideas in Food” crew that caught my attention despite it involving me cooking fish was making fish head cheese. Continue reading
When faced with the question this past fall of what I would do with a bacon rind, I used some to enrich a pot of beans and used a batch of fresh skin, nipple-on no less, to do the same for meatballs. Certainly delicious, if perhaps a little too precious. Faced with a slightly different challenge from myself, what to do with a bunch of rind from an already dried serrano ham, I followed Michael Ruhlman’s direction from the Butcher & Larder event and went directly for the jugular. I would attempt cracklins. Simple, delicious, undistilled, pure pork skin. But there was risk. Continue reading
Before meeting my lovely bride, I had no tradition on New Year’s Day. We watched football, but nearly every New Year’s Day was spent the same way as my Christmas Day – in a car. Granted, my interest in food as a cultural touchpoint had not been piqued, but I was unaware of the traditions of cotechino & lentils or greens and black-eyed peas. The first New Year’s Day that she and I spent together, her mother was visiting and prepared a New Year’s meal of cheese grits, collard greens and black-eyed peas. I did not understand the significance until she explained after the meal, but I would never spend another New Year’s day without eating collard greens and black-eyed peas.
One of my resolutions for 2012 is to learn more about classic Southern cooking and food traditions. Through some cursory research and discussions, I found that there are folks who are very particular about mixing different types of greens and how there are particular ways of cooking different types of greens. These details are what I am interested in learning more about. Continue reading