Monthly Archives: May 2012

Red Flannel Hash

Although I live in Chicago, I spend a lot of time in Massachusetts. In particular, I visit Boston, which is where my boyfriend Tommy lives and Chatham, which is located on Cape Cod and is where Tommy’s family has a summer home.

I was fortunate enough to spend this past Memorial Day weekend in Chatham.

(source)

As part of any trip to Chatham, it is necessary to go to brunch at Hangar B Eatery, which is located above the control center at Chatham’s small private airport. The Chef/Owner of Hangar B is Brian Erskine, formally of Chatham Bars Inn, which is an upscale hotel and restaurant.

While I promise to do a full post of my favorite dishes at Hangar B, this post is dedicated to my recreation of one of the best dishes at Hangar B – The Red Flannel Hash.

(source - I did take pictures this weekend but my camera somehow did not save them)

As far as I can tell, the hash itself is comprised of red beets, Yukon gold potatoes, onions, bacon, with seasonings of thyme, salt and pepper.  The hash gets its name from the whites of the potatoes and the red of the beets, although truth be told, the beets make this dish pretty much red all over.  The hash is then topped with perfectly cooked poached eggs, drizzled with horseradish crème fraiche and sprinkled with chives. Hangar B also serves sourdough toast with homemade jam and butter with their hash and eggs.

When I opted to take on the challenge of recreating this dish at home, I wanted to do it for dinner. I think that eggs are actually a great thing to serve for dinner because they are an inexpensive, vegetarian protein. Because I was making dinner for my sister Sarah, who is a piscatorial, I thought that this meal would be great. Also – because this was for dinner, I nixed the jelly and just served sourdough toast that could be used to scoop up the hash and eggs.

At-Home Red Flannel Hash – Serves 3:

This recipe can serve three hungry people for dinner or four people for breakfast.  Yellow beets would taste fine in this dish, but wouldn’t give it the great red texture.   I wouldn’t sub out the Yukon gold potatoes for anything else because the Yukon golds really provide a buttery texture while maintaining their texture and don’t fall apart at all.  Although the original recipe called for crème fraiche, I used sour cream because my store was out of crème fraiche.  I thought this was a fine substitute and would recommend either   I also opted to serve my eggs fried over medium instead of poaching them to medium, strictly out of convenience because poaching can require a bit more attention.  Either cooking method would be great though.  Finally, I used soy bacon in this recipe because I was making it for my sister.  It tasted great, but please feel free to add some delicious, preferably organic, bacon.

Ingredients

3 medium red beets, cooked and then chopped

15 baby Yukon gold potatoes, chopped

1/2 of a medium onion, diced

4 slices bacon, chopped

3 TBS Olive Oil

6 sprigs thyme, stripped off the stem and minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 eggs

Cooking Spray

½ sour cream

2 TBS fresh horseradish

3 TBS chives, chopped

6 slices of sourdough toast, thinly cut

S+P to taste

 Hash:

Step 1:

Place whole beets in pot and fully submerge in cold water.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes until fork tender.  Cool beets.

Step 2:

Chop potatoes:

Onions:

Beets:Soy Bacon (if using):

Strip thyme leaves from stem and mince with garlic: Step 3:

Heat oil in a heavy set skillet (I used a cast iron skillet) or grill pan over medium heat.

*Note – if using real bacon, I would cook the full pieces of bacon in the pan until almost done, but not crisp. Once complete, take out from pan and pour off most of the bacon fat, but do not wipe the pan clean – this will add delicious bacon flavor to all the other ingredients you add to the pan.

Step 4:

Once oil is heated, add potatoes to pan, plus S+P, and sauté for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 5:

Add onions, thyme and garlic to the pan and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally for another 7-8 minutes.  After the 7-8 minutes have passed, taste everything and reason as needed. 

Step 6:

Add bacon to pan (if using real bacon, chop it after Step 1, and add at this step), stir occasionally.

Step 7:

Add beets to pan.  Because the beets have been pre-cooked, they do not need to be sautéed as much as the other un-cooked ingredients.  Cook beets with other ingredients for 10-15 on low heat to incorporate flavors.  Also, check seasoning again.  Beets have a tendency to be sort of bland in flavor, so may require more salt to bring out their delicious taste!

Eggs:

Step 1:

While hash is cooking, spray a pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat.

Step 2:

Add eggs to pan, sprinkle with S+P and cook until the whites are set.  Flip eggs and cook for 1-2 minutes depending on wellness preference.

*Note, even if you cook the eggs in batches, they will stay warm and the yolks will remain runny for 5-10 minutes.

Horseradish Crème:

Step 1:

Mix sour cream (or crème fraiche), fresh horseradish, salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Once the hash and eggs are cooked and the sourdough bread is toasted, it is time to serve everything up!  I plated everything similarly to how they do it at Hangar B.  First, spoon the hash onto the plate, top with eggs and chopped chives.  Spoon horseradish crème onto the hash and eggs and add toast to the plate.  I also served mine with some lightly sautéed beet greens that came with my beets. It was a delicious addition.

Bon Appetite!

MK Restaurant – Wine on Wednesdays

Last Wednesday, my sister Kate and I enjoyed dinner at MK Restaurant located on Franklin Street in Chicago’s Near North Side area.

(photo from here

I have eaten at MK before, two years ago in celebration of my sister’s 30th birthday.  In honor of her 30th birthday, she actually wanted to go to Sprout, a new-ish restaurant in Chicago, created and owned by Executive Chef Dale Levitski, of Top Chef Fame.

(photo from here)

On the day of her birthday dinner, we got a call from Sprout informing us that the restaurant was closed because of a kitchen fire that had occurred earlier in the day.  The restaurant folks apologized (my sister, Sarah, actually spoke to Dale directly, who was extremely apologetic and kind) and offered to get us a table at MK, their sister restaurant, instead.  Although we were disappointed at not being able to eat at Sprout, we were happy to give MK a chance, as it truly is a Chicago foodie institution.

On that night, dinner actually blew my expectations out of the water.  The food was fabulous, and while expensive (luckily my ‘rents were picking up the tab), I felt like we got what we paid for – good sized portions of great tasting food.  Dale also sent over a bottle of Champagne as an apology + happy birthday treat – which is ALWAYS gladly accepted.

Fast forward to two weekends ago – my sister Kate came back from dinner with a friend and told me that her waitress informed her that MK does a “Wine on Wednesdays” tasting menu and wine pairing.  Apparently the Wine on Wednesdays at MK is not a secret, per se, but it is also not widely advertised.  The waitress told Kate that it was an excellent value because you got three tastings of wine wine and three small portions of food for $25.

This seemed like an excellent value to me – knowing how delicious and expertly crafted the food at MK was during my last visit, so I quickly jumped on OpenTable and made a reservation at 6:30 on Wednesday night.

When Kate and I arrived, the restaurant was quite and we were pleasantly greeted and seated right away.  The hostess handed us our menus as soon as we were seated.  Immediately, we started perusing the menu and looking for this infamous Wine and Wednesdays deal, but could not find any information about it.  Thinking that perhaps it was an “in the know” type of deal, we quickly asked our waiter about it – who also quickly informed us that the deal was only available at the bar – whoops!

The waiter and the bartender were both very nice about the confusion, told us it was no problem and seated us in the bar area in two large comfy black chairs.  We then received the actual Wine on Wednesday menus and were ready to get our dinner started.  Here is what MK was offering on the night we came in:

For those of you who cannot read 4 font sized print (sorry for the poor shot!), the menu read:

  1. Wine: Weingut thiery-weber gruner vetliner, animo, kremstal 2010 (say that 10 times fast). Paired with: Terrine of Nicolas farm asparagus, piquillo peppers, eight year balsamic.
  2. Wine: Balleyana Chardon, grand firepeak cuvee, edna valley 2007. Paired with: Spring onion and mascarpone tortellini, king trumpet mushrooms, fine herb butter.
  3. Wine: Weingut fritz haag riesling, mosel 2009. Paired with: Sauteed soft shell crab, chorizo stuffed tinker bell pepper squash, chorizo vinaigrette.

As soon as we indicated that we would like to put the order in for the Wine on Wednesday experience, the bartender brought over some house made bread and butter (with sea salt on top- yum!) as well as an amuse-bouche.

We dove right into the bread, a mixture of crackers, sourdough, foccaccia, and whole grain.

Over the course of the night, I had a taste of everything.  The best was the focaccia – the perfect amount of moistness from the EVOO, but not overly oily.

The amuse-bouche was a chilled pea soup that was delicious!

My sister Kate – with the ever discerning palate – was able to detect spearmint in the soup.  I wasn’t convinced.  I tasted pea shoots, pepper and a subtle grassiness – which while not the most appealing sounding adjective, is a honest description of a pleasantly surprising taste.  Later, as Kate an I looked through the menu, we found that the pea soup was listed in the appetizer section and did indeed include spearmint! Note to self – always as Kate what she tastes when trying to describe a meal for a blog post!

As soon as we finished licking the small cup of soup with our tongues our soups, the tasting menu was brought out.  We each got three nearly full glasses of wine and a wonderful and beautiful looking spread of food.

The wines and food go from left to to right based on the above descriptions.

On this particular Wednesday (it is my understanding that the menu changes weekly), we enjoyed three whites that pair well with the food with which MK presented. While I am not an expert in being able to describe the intricacies of why certain wines taste good with certain foods – I can just tell you that these wines really complemented the food well.

First up – the vegetable terrine.

This tasting was deliciously smokey and contrasted well with the acidic and mineral tastes found in the gruner vetliner wine.  Every time you took a bite of the terrine you wanted to take a sip of the wine to help counterbalance the smokiness.  This was my favorite wine of the night and I ended up ordering a full glass after the tasting and parings were complete (don’t judge me, my office was closed the next day because of the NATO summit and I found it to be an occasion to celebrate!).

Up next was the tortellini, which in my opinion was the best of three tasting portions.

The wine pairing was also great.  The tortellini matched perfectly with the butteriness of the chardonnay.  While chardonnay is not my favorite wine, I enjoyed this one a lot.

Finally on to the sauteed soft shell crab.

I was looking most forward to this dish, but was slightly disappointed. The squash was perfectly cooked – not mushy and had a slight bite left in it.  The chorizo stuffed pepper was also great.  The disappointment was what was supposed to be the star of the show!  The soft shell crab was not soft which is unusual based on what I have eaten in the past.  You could not eat the shell and there was any meat on the crab at all.  We didn’t even get to enjoy any crab flavor in the other elements.   I also thought that the chorizo vinaigrette fell a bit flat.  I was hoping for more smoke, but found it to be just okay.

The riesling that was paired with this dish was also a spectacular wine.  I can have negative connotations about rieslings – rooted in having some overly sweet, unpalatable ones. This was dry and had a slight effervescence (see note above about gladly accepting champagne – has much to do with the wonderful bubbles!). I would order this wine again in a heart beat.

After polishing of the three tastings, Kate and I looked at each other and knew we wanted more food.  I should say that when we went into this experience, we were expecting that we would get less wine and more food than we actually did.  With that said, I was happy to pay $25 for three nearly full glasses of wine and three great tastings of food.

When we discussed what to eat, Kate and I knew that we didn’t want entrees, but a couple smaller items were definitely in order. We quickly examined the menu and opted for the tuna tartare:

with celery root remoulade, Moroccan cured olives and extra virgin olive oil

and the grilled baby octopus:

with pickled fingerling potatoes, scallions, mole and cilantro

Neither dish disappointed!  The tuna tartare at MK is unique because it offers a wonderful contrast of textures.  I have tasted a lot of wonderful tuna tartares but have been left wanting some crunch to offset the only slightly firm texture of the tuna.  Some restaurants offer crackers to satisfy the need for crunch, but MK’s is more unique: celery root remoulade.  Celery root in and of itself does not have a ton of flavor, however MK added just the right amount of salt and pepper to make this remoulade delicious on its own.  When paired with the tuna tartare however, it was the perfect match texturally and flavor wise.  The addition of the olives was also great in this dish because it added just the right amount of salty flavor.

The charcoal grilled octopus was my favorite part of our meal at MK.  Grilling the octopus made it crisp on the outside, but someone allowed it to maintain tender inside.  It was like eating the most tender chicken wing or drumstick, which is hard to do for a protein that is almost all muscle!  I also thought that pickling the potatoes was a stroke of genius.  Too often I find myself clutching the salt shaker and pouring salt over my potatoes.  Pickling them added salt but also an acidic flavor from the vinegar.  This was nicely balanced with the smokiness of the mole sauce made from a base of piqullo peppers (FYI – mole sauce is actually just a generic term for sauces in Mexico.  The most common mole sauce in the States is a dark thick sauce with addition of chocolate that is served over chicken and enchiladas, but this is actually just one variety of mole and there are many others).

After finishing off these two appetizers, Kate and I were very full and satisfied.  The total for the meal, which included the three “wine pours” (aka wine glasses), tastings, two appetizers, two more glasses of wine, tip and tax came to about $60 dollars.  While this certainly isn’t an “inexpensive meal,” I thought it was a very accessible way to enjoy a high establishment and expensive restaurant.  We got to sample six different offerings from MK (who could say that if they just went to sit down at the restaurant on a Saturday night) and enjoyed a lot of wine for not that much money.  Not to mention that MK is a restaurant you can feel good about eating at – their food is locally and organically sourced when possible.

I am so happy that the secret is out about Wine on Wednesday at MK.  I will absolutely be back again!