Thursday, August 23, 2012

Last day in Evanston

 I can't believe I'm moving out, and will probably not be back in Chicago again any time soon. After running errands today (post office, salon, Whole Foods), I came home to cook dinner and try to use up some of the stuff in my pantry. Although I'm generally rather minimalistic, I'm a hoarder in the kitchen, so it has been difficult to use up all of the food I've accumulated.

I had half a rack of ribs left, so I made Cayenne Cinnamon Baby Back Ribs with Maple Glaze. I was missing a key ingredient -- brown sugar -- but I figured that these would be adequately sweet with just the maple syrup. 

The cast of characters: powdered garlic, cinnamon, paprika, salt, cayenne, maple syrup, and ribs. See, it's super simple.

In a bowl, throw in powdered garlic, cinnamon, paprika, salt, and a tiny pinch of cayenne. This is also where you would add brown sugar if you wanted to.

Rub down the ribs all over the the rub made in the last step. Place ribs on a metal tray covered in two layers of foil...

...and wrap up the ribs in the foil. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for one hour. 

Remove ribs from the oven and unwrap. Use brush to glaze ribs with maple syrup, and then return to the oven. Turn over to broil and let the ribs cook for a few minutes until the sugar has caramelized. Unfortunately, my oven has no broil setting so I gave up, so it doesn't have a tasty crust.

These were amazing, considering how they didn't need to be marinated, how I omitted the brown sugar, and how my oven doesn't broil stuff. I would totally make it again, using all of the legit steps the next time around once I move into my new apartment with an oven that has a broil sitting). 

Another thing I wanted to clear out were these Bacon Wrapped Chorizo Dates with Piquillo Pepper Sauce, which were a dupe of a signature dish from Avec. I made these awhile back but didn't have the chance to bake them so I froze them for later use. I figured that I wouldn't have another chance to bake them in the future, so I popped them into the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made the sauce. I didn't have piquillo peppers so I ended up just making a tomato-and-onion puree. So I cooked down a diced onion...

...then pureed it in a blender with some tomato and a pinch of paprika. This went back onto the stove top to simmer. 

The finished bacon wrapped dates. The one in the back middle is legit burnt, but the others were fine. They're not too pretty but they're tasty. All that grease is from the bacon :(

The dates covered in sauce, yummy.

After dinner, I went to an exercise class in downtown Evanston (the last of my Groupons, success!) and then went for a walk around campus to say goodbye.

I can't believe I had the opportunity to live in such a beautiful place for the past few years. I'll be in California for the next week, and then I'll be moving into my new apartment in DC on September 1st. Chicago/Evanston, I'm going to miss you so much.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Purple Pig

My friend Joan and I attended a Yelp elite event at Red Door earlier in the evening, but the event was overcrowded. They must've let too many people onto the guest list because the venue could only comfortably seat half of the people who showed up. The food was delicious but we could only grab a few nibbles and a cocktail each, so we brainstormed where to go for dinner afterwards and settled on The Purple Pig. This restaurant has been on both of our bucket lists for awhile, and it's also was the last restaurant that I really wanted to visit before leaving Chicago.

We were quoted an hour and fifteen minute wait, and had our eyes peeled on the bar area hoping that something would open up, but everyone was loitering with their drinks. Luckily for us, we were offered a table in less than 45 minutes.

The huge menu

Decisions, decisions

We had too much trouble choosing, so we just asked for recommendations. Because we weren't too hungry (they recommend 2-3 plates per person), we decided to just order the three most popular dishes on their menu.

Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs: this was my first time trying marrow at a restaurant (I've only had my mom's spareribs with marrow, Asian style). It was weird initially but it grew on me, and I was attached and sad that it was almost all gone by the time I started on my third slice of bread. It was delicious, although I felt terribly guilty eating it because it's literally just fat and carbs.

Pig's Ear with Crispy Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers & Fried Egg: the pig ear pieces taste like chicharones (fried pork rinds). I liked this dish the least out of the three that we ordered. It was only lukewarm and was very salty with a hint of vinegar. This was Joan's favorite though.

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes: the waiter described this dish as "iconic" and it was probably the best thing we had that day (or at least it ties with the bone marrow) but it didn't wow me. The pork shoulder was fork tender, and it reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner. 

Overall, the food was good but not fantastic. Purple Pig is fancy man food: tons of fat, pork, and more fat. I definitely needed some sort of palette cleanser afterwards, but they were out of the lemon panna cotta from the dessert menu. Everything else looked crazy heavy, so I settled on some fruit after getting home. I can't help but compare this restaurant to Girl and the Goat (similar price range, entree size, tapas style, and cult following) and GATG wins hands down as the more delicate, creative option.

Completely unrelated, but not something you see every day

500 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 464-1744

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bobtail Ice Cream Company

I wanted to say goodbye to Ron and also use up the last of my Chicago Groupons, so we biked from my apartment up to Central and Wilmette for ice cream at Bobtail, hitting two birds with one stone. Win.

 Store front

The Groupon is for $10 worth of ice cream, so we had to be gluttonous. Here's Ron's creation: chocolate dipped double cone with raspberry white chocolate M&M and cookie dough ice cream, dipped again in chocolate. This picture doesn't quite capture how huge it is.

Ron is pleased

He's thinking about the first bite

It's dripping all over the place, hurry up Ron

"This is bigger than I realized" -Ron

Halfway there. I would be crying at this point, but Ron's taking it like a champ. 

Ron's mess

My double watermelon sorbet, mmmm. I'm a watermelon fiend - I literally carry one home from Whole Foods each week, polish it off within a few days, go into watermelon withdrawal, and repeat. At places that sell sorbet, I often try to get the watermelon flavor but it's usually gross and artificial. Not this. This is serious stuff. I felt all cleansed and fresh as a daisy after polishing it off, while Ron was stuffed, so we were both rather happy.

1114 Central
Wilmette, IL 60091
(847) 251-0174

Guess what I made


Unfortunately, it didn't taste as good as it looks. And the left side of this slice collapsed :(

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chicken Makhani with Peas Pulav

I went through a phase when I was into all things related to Indian food. Once, I invited a group of friends over for dinner and made chicken tikka masala, but I was a little too heavy handed with the cayenne. Everyone ended up gulping pitchers of water, and finally one of my friends went to the corner market to buy vanilla ice cream for us to sooth the horrible burning.

I still made chicken tikka masala as well as other Indian dishes every once in awhile, but although these experiences were not nearly as disastrous, none of the outcomes were what I would deem a success. Until this dish. I stumbled across this recipe by Top Chef winner Floyd Cardoz on Serious Eats. It's been filed away in a Pinterest folder amongst a list of things I've been planning to make. I've been procrastinating since the directions are tedious and the product is heavy (lots of butter and heavy cream), but I finally got around to it. It tastes incredible. 

Marinate a pound of chicken thighs overnight in a mixture of 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1 tsp powdered ginger, 2 Tbsp lime juice, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp paprika, 2 tsp garam masala, and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I just estimated everything). Line baking tray with foil and grease with cooking spray, then broil in oven for 10 minutes on each side.

Chicken thighs yum. This chicken is delicious without the sauce even. The marinade is totally versatile enough to make spicy chicken for a variety of applications. Slice the chicken thighs into bite sized pieces.

Dice 1/2 an onion, as well as 5 medium-sized tomatoes. The recipe said to just use a 28oz can of diced tomatoes (so you can do that) but I don't have a can opener since I'm moving soon, so I had to do this the hard way. Diced tomatoes aren't pictured because I did an ugly job.

In a medium sized pot, throw in the diced veggies, 1 cup water, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tsp powdered ginger, 1/2 a stick of butter, 2 cardamom pods, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp black pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. 

Now, you can eat this curry with regular rice and it would be just as delicious, but you also have 30 minutes of time to wait around, so why not make peas pulav? Hehe. Cook 1 cup of brown rice in 2 cups of water. You can use stove top or a rice maker. 

While the rice is cooking, cook the remaining 1/2 onion (diced) with 1 Tbsp oil, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp garam masala, 3 cloves (the spice), 1 tsp cumin, and some salt to taste until the onion is browned. Add 1/2 cup of frozen peas and stir fry for a minute (I just did it until the peas weren't a big frozen clump anymore). Add everything in the pan to the rice that is still cooking, and stir. Leave the rice alone until it's done.

 Meanwhile, after 30 minutes, your sauce should look something like this.

Transfer sauce to a blender and puree for about 30 seconds until smooth. Have a taste. This was a holy crap moment for me.

Pour sauce back into the pot and turn on low heat. Add 1/3 cup of heavy cream (I just poured and guessed) and stir.

Add the sliced chicken pieces and stir.

 At this point, your peas pulav should be approximately done. This is what it should look like.

 Peas pulav, plated.

Chicken makhani. Floyd Cardoz is brilliant, as is this recipe.