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[photo by Rich Hein~Sun-Times]

Geoff Rhyne is going back home (almost).

Rhyne ended his stint last week as chef at SugarToad in Naperville and, on Friday, was on the road, passing through the mountains of Tennessee on his way to Charleston, S.C.

The Georgia native says he is reuniting with mentor Mike Lata at FIG in Charleston, which like SugarToad keeps local, sustainable foods as its focus. He'll be working with Lata on a new, yet unnamed project as well.

Rhyne was among the chefs I talked to for this week's cover story on memories of their moms' cooking. Hearing about his Southern upbringing, which he says was "about as stereotypical as you can get," it's no wonder he's headed back that way. Home, as it were.

Rhyne was weaned on "fresh biscuits, big cast iron pans, collard greens." He spent summers on his grandparents' farm in Ellaville, Georgia, a one-stoplight town, picking pecans and sneaking the crusty top off his G-Mama's pound cake.

That recipe (actually his great-grandmother's) is in a book compiled for him by his mom of generations-old family recipes; he carries the book with him like Linus does his blanket. It was the source of many dishes at SugarToad, and will serve the same purpose in his new gig.

Rhyne kindly shared with us the pound cake recipe, which you'll see on Wednesday, along with several other recipes from chefs' moms. Consider it a parting gift from Rhyne -- and comfort food at its best.

If we stoked your competitive fires with last week's cover story on cooking contests, you might want to take note of a few more contests, big and small, with deadlines approaching.

Rhapsody Mother's Day Contest
The restaurant at 65 E. Adams is putting out a call for your mom's or grandma's best brunch, dinner or dessert recipes. E-mail recipes by noon April 22 to rhapsodyinfo@gmail.com, with your name and contact information.

Chef Dean Zanella will test the recipes and choose as many as six winners, whose dishes will be served at the restaurant on Mother's Day. Those winners also will eat free on May 8. There's no prize money but hey, you're doing this for Mom.

Cook's Country Holiday Cookie Contest
It's never too early to start thinking holiday cookies. The magazine is seeking recipes by April 30 for seven categories: drop; rolled; bar or square; icebox or log; sandwich; chocolate, and "other." cookie08-CST-1208-5.JPG

Include a 250-word essay on why your cookie is so special. For more details or to enter via e-mail, go to cookscountry.com/emailus.asp; or mail your entry to Holiday Cookie Contest, Cook's Country, Box 470739, Brookline, Mass., 02447.

There's a $1,000 grand prize, six $100 runner-up prizes and the distinction of seeing your recipe in the magazine.

Saveur.com Home Cook Challenge: Best Sandwich
No PB&Js here. Contenders thus far in the magazine's online contest (there's a different contest each month) include a Green Goddess grilled cheese and an onion, fig and prosciutto panini.

The deadline to enter is April 25; top prize is a $500 certificate to Sur La Table. Sending in a photo of your sandwich is optional, but probably a good idea.
For details and to enter, go to saveur.com/RecipeContest/contestIndex.jsp.

Gnarly Head Rippin' Ribs Competition at Ribfest Chicago
The barbecue circuit is pretty hardcore, so be prepared. Submit that pork ribs recipe you've been perfecting by May 15. If your recipe is chosen, you'll compete in the June 11 contest at Ribfest in North Center, which actually is the regional cook-off for the 2012 Memphis in May Barbecue Competition.

There are all sorts of cash and other prizes, but the grand-prize winner gets a spot on a team that will compete in Memphis. For more details and to enter, go to rippinribs.com.

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[photo courtesy Dirk Flanigan]

Both recipes in Mike Austin's cover story celebrating the versatile, beloved potato call for roasting potatoes on a layer of kosher salt.

Why do this?

Mostly for flavor, says Seasons chef Kevin Hickey. Some cooks also say the salt ensures even roasting, and thus tender flesh.

Though you might be loath to empty out half your box of salt, relax -- you can re-use the salt after roasting. Just pour it back into a pinch bowl, a resealable bag, whatever.

If you didn't notice, today's Food section was overwhelmingly starchy for obvious reasons, with our Low Mileage Kitchen column also offering potato lore and two more recipes and a corned beef (and potato!) recipe in Swap Shop.

Still didn't get your fill of spuds? Head to the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark, at 10 a.m. March 26 for a potato lecture given by culinary historian Andrew Smith. He's the author of the book, Potato: A Global History. Admission is $5. Call (312) 286-8781.

Missing Swap Shop recipe

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Readers of today's Food section who live downtown, on the North Side or in the northern suburbs likely noticed a goof in the Swap Shop column: The recipe for Chocolate Popcorn Biscotti is missing.

You'll find it in the online edition as well as below. Our apologies.

Chocolate Popcorn Biscotti
MAKES 24 COOKIES

1 cup egg substitute
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 cups air-popped popcorn, ground in food processor or blender
2¼ cups flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In large bowl, combine egg substitute, vanilla and 1 cup sugar; mix well. Add popcorn, flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder; mix well (dough will be stiff but continue mixing until all ingredients are well combined).

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons sugar on work surface; divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll dough into 8-by-4-by- ½-inch logs; roll in sugar lightly on all sides. Transfer logs to baking sheet, leaving space between them. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow logs to cool 5 minutes.

Cut logs diagonally into ½-inch slices. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes; turn cookies over and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer, until lightly browned and crisp on both sides. Cool biscotti; store in airtight container. Serve with hot cocoa.

Popcorn Board

Nutrition facts per cookie: 106 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 10 g sugars, 3 g protein, 209 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

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[Al Podgorski~Sun-Times]

My, these Tacos de Camaron use a lot of garlic and chipotles in adobo.

That was my first thought when looking over the recipe from Mercadito's Patricio Sandoval, who wrote today's At the Chef Table column.

A 1/2 cup -- about 20 cloves -- of garlic, and an entire can (albeit a small can) of chipotles in adobo? For four little tacos? No way.

But it worked. These tacos were dreamy, bathed in this garlicky, lively sauce cut through with just a bit of lemon juice and butter.

The roasted garlic puree is key. This actually became clear to me when I did this story last summer on tomatoes; Province's Randy Zweiban, who contributed a tomato squash gratin recipe, uses roasted garlic puree a whole bunch of ways, and though he says you can use minced garlic, it doesn't quite hit you with the same depth that roasted garlic would. Is it kind of a pain peeling all these garlic cloves? Kind of. But take the whole head of garlic and smash your knife over it, then give the cloves a good whack, and you're halfway there.

Cover the garlic with oil and bring to a simmer. Once the cloves have softened up and started to color, you're ready to puree them. And bonus -- now you have garlic-infused oil to play with.

8-4-10_Hein_tofu_1.jpg (Ryan Poli with tofu. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times)


With a few exceptions, chefs aren't exactly the picture of healthful eating in their down time (or even on the clock, for that matter).

Which is why this vegan mac and cheese recipe on Perennial chef Ryan Poli's blog -- sprinkled with such phrases as "brown rice pasta," "vegan cream cheese" and "nutritional yeast" -- gave me pause.

Say wha? Ryan Poli, have you turned vegan?

"God, no," he says. "But my girlfriend is."

Ah, that explains it. Poli's love, Kelli Zink, an entertainment reporter for CelebTV.com, is actually a "self-proclaimed seafood vegan -- a sea-gan," Poli says. "She loves when I cook for her. But I can't just riff off whatever I've got in my fridge. It's really tough. Every Sunday, we cook together and it's like a Top Chef challenge."

And because love makes you do crazy things, Poli has started fiddling around with vegan cooking. (It should be said that Poli respects tofu.) Nutritional yeast? "I had no idea what it is," Poli says. "I was like, what do you people eat? But it's actually very common. I got it at Whole Foods in the bulk section, and it's pretty cheap. They use it in place of Parmesan cheese. I think brewers use it for beer."

The first version of Poli's mac and cheese came about at Zink's parents' house during Christmas. Poli made a generous amount ("what I thought was too much") of gluten-free pasta with this cheesy vegan sauce, as well as a chefy, non-vegan version made with aged Gouda and all sorts of other lovely, stinky, artisanal wonders from Pastoral.

"Everybody chose the vegan pasta over the regular one," he says.

Poli revised the vegan pasta even further last weekend. This is how much he likes this dish: "We're actually considering putting vegan mac and cheese on the menu [at Perennial]."

Recipe after the jump.

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When it comes to choosing the 10 best recipes for our year-end issue, I tend to make up my mind quickly.

It becomes apparent when you're standing over the stove, cooking, which recipes are good, better and best. (And which are just plain bad, for that matter.)

There were forgettable recipes I had to try this year. But there were plenty more that I am glad to have in my repertoire.

Like Kim Schwenke's ricotta. Over Christmas weekend, I made the 312 Chicago pastry chef's ricotta again. It was snowy outside and cozy inside, a lasagna sort of Sunday. Damn, that was some good lasagna.

I had some leftover ricotta, which I promptly put in the fridge and then couldn't stop thinking about all Monday. So Monday's dinner was an apple and celery salad and the rest of that ricotta mixed with a bunch of chopped chives, dill and parsley and spread over toast, an Ina Garten recipe. Damn, that was a good little dinner.

Of course, some of our contributing writers had their picks, too. Only a fraction made it in today's issue. But so you know, here's some of what they had to say:

Louisa Chu, who wrote about Art Smith in February, calls his 12-Layer Cake a "showstopper and unbelievably rich . . . For a couple of Chinese-American girls who grew up with a mom who's a gifted cook but not a baker, this cake made up for a lifetime of no home-baked goods -- make that two lifetimes."

Judith Dunbar Hines, the city's culinary arts director and our Low Mileage Kitchen columnist, swooned over Province chef Randy Zweiban's Lavender Honey Glazed Chicken (pictured above), in Brian Clark's July story on local honey. "Any time I'm tired or depressed," Hines said, "all I want is an old-fashioned baked chicken and the use of honey . . . and the lavender in this one is NOT old-fashioned but it made me especially happy."

Jennifer Olvera tested a recipe for Potato Pancakes with Maple-Horseradish Sauce and Smoked Whitefish for a March story about the maple syrup season in Illinois, and was struck - in a good way - by the "weird flavor pairings." "Crisp (latkes), bright (apples), smoky (fish) -- texturally triumphant."

David Hammond, our Food Detective, created Japanese-style Chicken and Waffles for his April story on, well, chicken and waffles and went so far as to call it his "best home-cooked meal of 2010."

Leah Zeldes' vote also was for one of her own dishes, bourboned-up Smo-o-oth Sweet Potatoes she shared for her portable Thanksgiving story. Seanan Forbes loved the pierogi that ran with her April profile of Rockit chef James Gottwald's grandmother; a New Yorker, Forbes swears these are better than any she's had, "and I lived in the East Village, where pierogi reign." And Tavaner Bushman chose Panzanella from Chicagoan LaManda Joy, creator of the Peterson Garden Project -- "pretty spectacular -- and so simple, which makes it all better."

I would link to all of the stories and recipes I just mentioned, but in case you haven't noticed, we have a new website that has inexplicably tucked away (for the time being, I'm told) our recipe archives into some deep, dark corner of the interwebz. My apologies.

But maybe some of these recipes ring a bell; maybe you even clipped these, or others, over the past year. Hang on to them. Keep cooking. Happy New Year.

What's that? You missed today's Food section? No, you didn't. It ran last Sunday - click here to find those stories and more to help you through the holiday weekend. 10-24 hale bannos21 5717.JPG

For our cover story, writer Lisa Shames profiled Jimmy Bannos, the Heaven on Seven patriarch and Thanksgiving dinner junkie. Bannos is a refreshing subject for many reasons; here, we discover that at home, Bannos cooks much like the rest of us -- or our grandmothers.

In his Thanksgiving arsenal: Chef Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic, which he uses in his stuffing; Wondra flour, whisked into his gravy along with heavy cream; and Kitchen Bouquet, a bottled seasoning sauce that fellow restaurateur Ina Pinkney turned him onto. Bannos rubs it all over his turkey; I've seen it used by a food stylist looking to add sheen to a burger.

There wasn't enough space to run all of the recipes Bannos gave us, but his turkey recipe is too much of a doozy not to share. Note that what follows is for a 25- to 28-pound turkey.

Roughly, you:

Preheat oven to 425.
Chop 1 bulb of celery, quarter 2 large onions and put those in a giant roasting pan with 2 bags of baby carrots.
Cut 2 pounds butter -- that's just the beginning -- into small squares and stuff in turkey's cavity.
Cut 1 pound butter -- there's more -- into small squares and tuck under the skin of the breast.
Massage 3 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning into the turkey.
Pour Kitchen Bouquet over turkey and massage all over skin.
Melt 3 pounds butter and pour over turkey.
Place turkey, uncovered, in oven and roast until "it gets a nice color brown, no longer than 45 minutes," Bannos says.
Then, cover with foil and continue cooking, basting every 30 minutes. Cook 15 minutes for every pound until done.

There is a reason why Thanksgiving comes but once a year. That reason is butter.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The GQ of food sections

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And 3, 2, 1... Thus begins Thanksgiving countdown madness in today's Food pages.

It somehow turned out that today's section was written almost entirely by guys. Am I the only one who finds that strangely delightful? Whatever your answer, our cover story -- columnist Neil Steinberg's ode to stuffing -- seems a fitting place to start our Thanksgiving hype, er, I mean coverage. People, Steinberg included, have strong feelings about stuffing. Indeed, he argues, stuffing, not turkey, is the holiday's "central foodstuff." He also says slightly crunchy celery and onions have no place in stuffing; I disagree. . . Discuss.

Today also is the debut of the Pour Man, our wine and beer column written by Chicagoan Michael Austin. Expect one wine column and one beer column a month from Austin, and zero pretension.

Our own Dave Hoekstra talks to cook-turned-musician Ben Weaver, who peforms Saturday at Schubas; Food Detective David Hammond looks at grass-fed beef's ubiquity, and Big Jones chef Paul Fehribach looks to the past, to when people put up food for the winter, and offers two delectable recipes -- for apple butter and fluffy Cheddar biscuits. Enjoy.

The thing about these 5-ingredient-recipe books is you want to try all the recipes because, hey, they're only five ingredients! Or four!

I tried a bunch from both Claire Robinson's 5 Ingredient Fix and Abigail Dodge's Desserts 4 Today, featured in today's Food pages. I was a mad woman. I was hooked. Of course, we didn't have the space to run the whole lot, so here you go. Enjoy.

Creamy Roasted Broccoli
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 pounds fresh broccoli (about 2 large bunches), florets removed, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 large orange plus 2 teaspoons orange zest
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Put 2/3 of broccoli in large bowl with olive oil and orange juice; season with salt and pepper and toss well to coat. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet, arrange in one layer and roast for approximately 15 minutes until just tender with golden brown edges.

Meanwhile, pour cream into medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, add remaining broccoli, garlic and orange zest and bring to gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until cream is reduced to half its original volume and broccoli is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

With handheld immersion blender or potato masher, or in food processor, blend or pulse cream and broccoli mixture until coarsely blended and still a bit chunky. Gently fold in roasted broccoli until combined; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to serving bowl and serve warm.

From 5 Ingredient Fix

More recipes after the jump.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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