Monthly Archives: January 2013

Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) and Saganaki (Flaming Cheese)

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There is a huge Greek population in Chicago.  So much so that we have an entire neighborhood of residences, restaurants and shops called “Greek Town.”

(photo source)

I didn’t truly appreciate the convenience of having great tasting Greek food at my disposal until I moved to Boston for college and realized that no such Greek Town existed.  To satisfy my Greek food cravings during my Boston years, I often tried to recreate some of my favorite dishes.  My cooking attempts have included avgolemono soup, saganaki (flaming cheese – more on that in a minute), tzatziki, horiatiki (or villagers salad) and spanakopita – or spinach pie.

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Spinach pie is a wonderful, healthy, vegetarian dinner.  As the name implies, it is stuffed with tons of nutritious spinach, plus I add scallions, onions, dill, parsley and thyme to beef up the veggie content even more.  But don’t think you are getting a healthy, no flavor meal either.  Thanks to a good cup of high quality feta cheese and flakey and buttery phyllo dough, this meal satisfies on the taste level as well.

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To go alongside the spanakopita, I also cooked up some saganaki, which is made by melting and then flambéing a Greek cheese called Halloumi.

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If you opt to make saganaki, I would suggest doing so with caution as the brandy that you use to flame it with is highly flammable!  If you do choose to forge ahead with making saganaki, the process is quite simple:

Step 1: Get yourself some high quality halloumi cheese.  I find it to be readily available at Whole Foods in Chicago (thanks to the Greek Population), but it was more difficult in Boston.  If you can’t find it, ask the cheese department or a specialty store what a good substitute would be.

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Step 2: Dredge your halloumi in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper.

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Step 3: Heat a medium sized sauce pan with 1 TB butter and 1 TB olive oil over medium-high heat until melted.  Add the seasoned halloumi and sauté for 4-5 minutes per side until each sided is browned.

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Step 4: Once nicely browned, TURN THE HEAT OFF.  You do not want any flames on while you pour in the brandy. With the heat off, add about 1/4 cup of brandy to the pan.  Light the brandy with a long lighter or a match and step back and yell “Opa” like they do in Greek restaurants.  Allow the flame to burn off (about 30 seconds).

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Step 5: When the flame is nearly out, spray the cheese with fresh lemon juice.

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Step 6: Cut the cheese into pieces, pour the sauce over each piece, and enjoy with more lemon juice, a piece of nice bread, or on its own!

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Kate and I enjoyed our saganaki while we waited for the spanakopita to cook, which takes about 30-40 minutes to get the phyllo dough nice and flakey and browned.

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Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) – Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 16 ounces packages of chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and drained well (squeezing the spinach in a kitchen towel is a popular method, but I find that cooking the spinach over medium heat allows the water to evaporate more quickly)
  • 3 TBs olive oil
  • 1 cup white onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh italian parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, minced
  • 1 TB of fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 cup good quality feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 TBs freshly squeeze lemon juice
  • 20 sheets of phyllo dough (or half of a box that you can find in the freezer section of your grocery store)
  • 6-8 TBs of melted butter (3/4 of a stick to 1 stick)
  • S+P to taste

Directions:

Defrost the phyllo dough for 24 hours in the fridge.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 9×11 baking dish with cooking spray.

Meanwhile, add 3 TBs of oil to a medium sized sauté pan over medium low heat.  Add the chopped onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until soft but not brown.  Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes and turn off the heat.

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This is pretty much the extent of the pre-cooking that goes on for this dish.  The rest of the ingredients – dill, parsley, thyme and scallions are stirred into the onions to combine, but are not really cooked.  Let’s discuss the copious amount of herbs I use in the spanakopita.

Italian Parsley:

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Fresh Dill:

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Fresh Thyme:

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Although it may seem excessive to use this much and this many herbs, these are truly what give the spanakopita so much flavor, so don’t skimp!  Mix the herbs into the onion and garlic mixture and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a small dish and beat lightly.  Add the crumbled feta cheese and stir to combine.

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Now it is time to bring everything together.  Mix the defrosted and drained spinach with the onion and herb mix, the cheese and egg, and the 2 TB of lemon juice and stir until everything is incorporated.  At this point, you want to make sure that you taste the mixture and adjust for seasoning.  I found that my mixture needed a lot more salt and pepper (about 1 tsp of each).

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Next up is adding this mixture to the phyllo dough.  Take your phyllo dough out of the package and roll out onto a damp paper towel.  Once you have it rolled out, place a damp paper towel on top.

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You want to do this to ensure that your phyllo dough does not dry out.  Because phyllo is such thin dough, it can dry out quickly and fall apart on your, so the damp paper towel helps keep it moist.

Take the baking dish that you sprayed with cooking spray and place one piece of phyllo dough down.  Brush the phyllo with butter until well covered. 

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Repeat nine more times so that you have a total of ten pieces of phyllo dough on the bottom layer.  Pour the entire spinach mixture on the phyllo dough and smooth with a wooden spoon.

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Lay a piece of phyllo dough on top of the spinach mixture and brush with more butter.

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Repeat nine more times so that you have ten layers on the top as well.  Pour any remaining butter that you have on top of the last layer of phyllo.  Because, well, more butter is always better.  Cut three slits on the top of the pie in order to allow steam to escape and sprinkle with lots of freshly ground pepper.

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Bake for 30-40 minutes until hot and the top is brown and flakey.

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Cut into large squares and serve warm.

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Enjoy this dish for dinner and if you have leftovers, serve it up for lunch the next day.   My only complaint about spanakopita as a leftover is that the phyllo dough doesn’t stay quite as crispy.  The trade off is that the spinach mixture gets even more flavorful after a night in the fridge – so its great either way!  Enjoy!

Southern Fried Chicken

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Over the weekend, while I was doing my normal weekly meal planning, I had the sudden and insatiable urge to make and eat fried chicken.

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I don’t eat chicken, let alone fried chicken, all the frequently, so this craving was a bit bizarre.  However, as soon as I turned to Kate and said “what do you think about making fried chicken this week,” she immediately responded with “when the question is about fried chicken, my answer will always be yes.”  So after I got her support, I was most definitely on a mission!

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Perhaps my craving was based on the fact that last week’s Top Chef episode featured the contestants making, and in many cases failing at making, fried chicken.  Considering that episode debuted last Wednesday, I would say it’s a feat I made it as long as I did.

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The result of this experiment – as hopefully you can tell by the pictures – was that it was a big time success.  The chicken was simple in flavor, but absolutely delicious.  Kate and I also noted that it was so extremely tender, despite not requiring any overnight buttermilk soaking. 

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My only complaint about my preparation was that I didn’t add enough salt to the flour mixture that the chicken was covered in.  Kate and I kept adding a bit of salt to every bite, so I have increased the quantity in the recipe below to adjust for this. 

Can I also suggest serving your chicken, as I did, with a sweet and spicy honey and chipotle dipping sauce?  If you aren’t shy around your dinner guests, just dip the chicken right in and watch the warm honey cover the piece of chicken!

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I served the fried chicken with kale chips (for nutrition and because they are so freaking good) and Hasselback Potatoes (recipe courtesy of Angela at OhSheGlows).

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If you have never had hasselback potatoes, make them ASAP. They are so good and each “slice” is perfectly tender and slightly crisp!  The preparation is pretty simple too – just slice the potatoes (not quite entirely through), stuff with a thin slice of garlic between each slice, cover with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake in a 425 degree oven for 50-60 minutes.

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Whatever you serve your fried chicken with, I just hope you make it!  I thought this version was good enough to be called a southern classic – complete with a brown paper bag to soak up the extra oil!

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Southern Fried Chicken – Serves 4 (Inspired by a recipe in Nordstrom’s Family Table Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 10 pieces of bone-in, skin-on, chicken (I think a safe bet is two get 4 drumsticks, 4 thighs and 2 breasts, but feel free to use the pieces you like the most!)
  • Vegetable Oil for frying (see note below)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 TBs granulated garlic
  • 2 TBs granulated onion
  • 6-8 TBs salt (sounds like a lot, but this is a lot of chicken!)
  • 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 TBs chipotle in adobo, minced

Directions:

Place the flour, granulated garlic and onion, salt, pepper, dried basil and thyme, and cayenne pepper into a bowl or Tupperware container.  Mix well to combine all ingredients.  Place half of the flour mixture into a paper bag, reserving the other half (covered). 

Place the chicken pieces in the paper bag, one at a time, and shake to coat.  Carefully remove and place onto a cookie sheet with a metal rack.  Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.  Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place in a fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably up to 24 hours.  Throw out the paper bag that you used to coat the chicken.

After allowing the chicken to sit, remove from the refrigerator and pour remaining half of the flour mixture into a new paper bag.

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Again, shake each chicken piece in the paper bag, one at a time, until well coated.  Repeat with remaining pieces and place back on the wire rack and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

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While the chicken is resting, you can start to bring your oil up to temperature for deep fat frying.  The amount of oil you have will determine how many chicken pieces you can cook at once.  Generally, you want a heavy set pot with approximately three inches of oil in it.  I used about 1 3/4 quarts of vegetable and was able to fill up a 4 qt pot almost half way.  You want to make sure you leave enough room for the oil to expand when you drop the chicken, so don’t use a pot that is too small.  The only downside to using this quantity of oil was that I could only cook 1 drumstick + 1 thigh, or, 1 breast at a time.  Next time, I will use more oil and a bigger pot to make the process go more quickly.

Bring your oil up to 350 degrees by using a deep fat fryer or candy thermometer.  Once the oil reaches 350 degrees, you can drop your chicken. 

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As I said above, I was able to fit 1 drumstick and 1 thigh in the pot at a time.  However, even if you can fit more, make sure you cook the white meat together and the dark meat together because they have slightly different cooking times.  For the dark meat, you want to cook the pieces, uncovered (ensuring that the temperature stays around 350) for 6 minutes, followed by covered for 6 minutes, followed by uncovered for 6 minutes.  For the breasts its: 4 minutes uncovered (again, at 350), 4 minutes covered, 4 minutes uncovered.  I had never used the covered technique before, but I am a fan of any method that makes the chicken as tender as it was!

Once you have finished round 1 of the cooking process, remove the chicken pieces and place on a paper bag to absorb the excess oil.  Sprinkle with some salt for extra flavor.  Place in a 200 degree oven to keep warm while you repeat the process with the other pieces.

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If you like, serve your chicken with 1/2 cup honey mixed with 3 TBs of minced chipotle in adobe.  I nuked the honey + chipotle mixture for 30 seconds in the microwave and it came out perfect.  Enjoy!!

Dinner at Piccolo Sogno

Last weekend, Sarah, Kate, Ben and I enjoyed a delicious dinner at Piccolo Sogno, an Italian restaurant located in Chicago’s River West neighborhood.

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(photo source)

My family and I have been many times over the years, often in the summer, when we can sit outside and enjoy Piccolo Sogno’s fabulous patio.  It is one of the few outdoor dining places that allows you to make reservations, so that is a big plus for a family that really likes to sit outside.  We are guilty of forgetting about Piccolo Sogno in the winter mainly because the restaurant isn’t really that close to anything else and we don’t have the patio drawing us in.  However, I am happy that we were able to enjoy a great meal there during a cold January night.

Piccolo Sogno has an extensive Italian wine list that features varietals from all over the country.  We enjoyed a particularly interesting Pinot Grigio Ramato from the Friuli region (which is located in northeastern Italy) made by  a winery called Attems.

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A “Ramato” wine is one that is produced with some skin contact, which provides a slight pink hue to the color.  The above wine that we drank was in contact with the skins for 12 hours which also added a nice crispness to the wine.  Additionally, the wine was pleasantly fruity, but not overly dry and overall, very easy drinking.

To go with our wine, we all enjoyed a couple of appetizers as well.  First up was the Insalata Di Pere.

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This salad featured chianti poached pears, lots of fresh baby arugula, lemon oil and a generous portion of goat cheese.  I only snagged a couple bites of this dish, but really enjoyed it.  The original plan was for Sarah and me to split this salad in addition to the Griglia Mista to start, but she didn’t end up enjoying the second dish as much.

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This ended up working out well for me because I absolutely adored the Griglia Mista (or mixed grilled seafood).  The dish had grilled calamari, shrimp, octopus and was served alongside a lightly dressed arugula salad.  I thought that the seafood was cooked to perfection and was really well seasoned, especially with the addition of some fresh squeezed lemon.  Sarah found that the seafood had a heavy char taste to it that overpowered the delicateness of the fish.  If you like flame broiled food, I think you will love this! If not, be forewarned!

Ben and Kate shared what was advertised as “prosciutto di Parma and melon” (perhaps they enjoyed when I made it for them so much that they wanted more?!), and what they got was really lots of prosciutto and a little bit of melon.

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I don’t think either of them was complaining because they both happen to love any pork product, but if you are looking for a piece of melon for every piece of prosciutto, this isn’t quite your dish.  I will say that for the $15 price tag on this appetizer, this was an extremely generous portion of prosciutto.

For our entrees, Sarah and I chose to split two dishes again.  Piccolo Sogno offers half portions of all of their pastas and risottos, which I really appreciate.  They generally serve large portions and I find that it works well if you split one full and one half portion between two people.  This is particularly true if one of the dishes is heavy, as was one of the items we ordered: mushroom risotto with shaved black truffle.

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As you can see, this dish (which was a nightly special) was fairly large for being a half portion.  We figured that because of the truffle and butter and cream that is typically found in risotto, that it would be quite rich.  And while it was, this was so tasty, that Sarah and I agreed we could have put down another half!

The other dish we ordered was a full size portion of the Spaghetti Neri “Fruitti Di Mare.”

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Not only were there tons of mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari in this dish, which would make anyone happy, but it was also full of seafood flavor, without being “fishy.”  I think this can be a hard balance to strike, but thanks to all the fresh seafood that Piccolo Sogno used, this dish definitely worked.  The pasta was also perfectly cooked, and not gummy like so many fresh pasta noodles can be.  Finally, I thought that Piccolo Sogno achieved the perfect amount of sauciness, whereby the noodles were coated by the sauce and not swimming in it.

Kate also opted for a pasta dish as her entrée.  She got the Pappardelle con Cinghiale which was a wide flat pasta mixed with spiced wild boar ragu.

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I was able to snag a bite of Kate’s pasta and found it to be really tasty.  This is not a dish I would recommend for a warm summer night (although I understand that it is on the menu year round), because it was quite heavy and rich.  However, on a cold winter night in Chicago, this would warm anyone right up.

Finally, Ben broke free from the pasta mold and ordered the Half Roasted Duck that came with fennel sausage and farro polenta (this dish was called Anatra Arrosto).

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I think Ben (who took the above photos) did a really great job of showcasing just how crispy the skin of the duck was.  I feel that if I am going to indulge in any kind of animal skin that it better be really crispy, otherwise its just not worth it.  Well this was and it tasted great with the tender duck meat.  Plus – farro polenta?!?! What even is that?  I am not exactly sure how it is made (perhaps farro ground down into a cornmeal like consistency?), but it was so good!  It had the flavor of my beloved farro, but the nice texture, plus pretty presentation, of polenta and it was a great medium to soak up all the tasty sauce!

Finally, we were also able to achieve a pretty rare feat in my family, and that is, we ordered dessert.  We typically fill ourselves to the brim with savory items and can’t stomach dessert.  However, on this night, we agreed to split a ricotta cheese cake that came with lots of fresh, sugar syrup soaked berries.

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This was not your traditional cheesecake and was actually more like a corncake meets cheesecake hybrid which we all quite enjoyed.  It had mild sweetness that complemented the tart berries quite well!  If I was a talented baker, I would definitely be interested in trying to recreate this.

Overall, we had a wonderful dinner at Piccolo Sogno and I am so happy that Sarah had this place on her winter radar!  Sarah, Kate, Ben and I split the meal evenly and the total came out to $70 dollars per person.  I thought, while not cheap, that was very reasonable considering the four of us had: two bottles of wine, two glasses of wine, one bourbon (for Ben’s dessert!), one dessert, three appetizers, three and half entrees plus tax and tip.  Plus, this restaurant isn’t your typical neighborhood Italian spot – it has a great atmosphere, an extensive wine list and delicious and unique food.

Restaurant Recreation–CPK Thai Chicken Pizza

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My sister Kate, with her ever discerning palate, extraordinary cooking skills and love for the finest restaurant, is in many ways,  a simple woman when it comes to food.

For one, she absolutely lives for popcorn.  I have never met someone who needs to have popcorn in order to watch a movie (in the theater or not).  She also includes Dominos pizza and sunflower seeds among her can’t-live-without items.  See what I mean? Simple woman.

Additionally, for years, Kate would also couldn’t live without frozen CPK Thai Chicken Pizza.  In fact, she recently reminded me that for an entire year in high school, she would come home during a free period and eat one of these frozen pizzas for her lunch.

I can’t say that I blame her, because well, CPK Thai Chicken Pizza is delicious.  Really what’s not to love? Peanut sauce – Amazing! Lots of shredded cheese – Can’t live without it! Fresh carrots, scallions and bean sprouts for crunch – icing on the cake!

So in Kate’s honor, I decided I wanted to try and recreate her high school lunch experience.  But instead of feeding her a frozen pizza that has a laundry list of ingredients, I decided to recreate it using less than ten ingredients and made it healthier!

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The result was amazing and tasted a lot like the original.  I think the key to making it taste authentic was by adding  some sweetness to the peanut sauce.  My typical peanut sauce is really simple and includes peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha and either water or chicken broth to thin it out.  For the sauce I used on the pizza, I added some coconut butter and agave nectar for some added sweetness.  If you don’t have either of these on hand, I would recommend substituting brown sugar or honey.  With that said, I don’t think the added sweetness is necessary, I just wanted to make it as similar to the CPK pizza as I could, so feel free to omit it.

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The last thing I will say about this pizza is that it really is a “one dish” dinner.  What I mean by that, is that if you use a lot of veggies as the topping (I chose carrots, scallions and bean sprouts but bell peppers, cucumbers or celery could work too!), you essentially have all of your nutritional needs satisfied – protein from the chicken, carbs from the dough, healthy fats from the reduced fat mozzarella cheese and peanut butter, and of course lots of veggies. 

So if you are in the mood for this CPK original, but not in the mood to deal with the hoards of high school students that make that restaurant their home (myself in high school included – I used to go at least twice a month!), then this recipe should be right up your alley!

Thai Chicken Pizza (CPK Restaurant Recreation) – Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza dough (I buy mine at Whole Foods and typically get the multigrain variety!)
  • 3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 lb chicken meat, shredded or cut into large cubes (I used the meat from a rotisserie chicken, but feel free to cook off some boneless breasts or thighs and shred it)
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1.5 cups sliced scallions
  • 1.5 cups bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 TB sriracha, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, plus more to thin out sauce as needed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TB coconut butter
  • 2 TB agave or honey
  • Cornmeal + Flour for the pizza

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  If using a pizza stone, you want to pre-heat the pizza stone while you are heating the oven.  Otherwise, if you put a cold pizza stone in a hot oven, you risk cracking the stone.

Roll out your pizza dough to desired thickness on a floured surface.  The CPK original is actually pretty thick, but because I like my pizzas a bit thinner, I rolled my dough pretty thin.  To do this, I actually cut the pizza dough in half and made two thinner pizzas instead of one thick pizza.  If you like your dough thicker, I would recommend just doing one larger pizza. 

After you roll your out your dough, remove the pizza stone (if using) from the oven and sprinkle with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking.  Place the raw dough on the stone and spray with a bit of cooking spray.  Sprinkle the dough with salt and pepper.

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Place the dough back in the oven and precook for 7-10 minutes, or until the dough is slightly browned.   Remove the dough and pizza stone from the oven, flip the dough and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from oven.

While the dough is precooking, prepare the peanut sauce by adding all ingredients in a small sauce pan and cooking until incorporated, about 5 minutes.  You want the peanut sauce to be thin enough to spread, so add more chicken broth or water to get to desired consistency.

Spread the peanut sauce on top of the precooked dough.

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Add 1/3 of the cheese atop the peanut sauce.

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Top with the shredded chicken and the remaining cheese.

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Cook the pizza for approximately 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

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Add the cilantro, carrots, bean sprouts and chopped peanuts to the cooked pizza.

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Serve the pizza with some extra sriracha and enjoy!!

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New England Patriots Tailgating Menu

As you know, I am a big time Chicago Bears fan.  So when they failed to make the playoffs this year, I was very disappointed. 

Luckily for me, I have a surrogate NFL team that I also love – the New England Patriots. 

Photo: Lets go Pats!

My love the Patriots is truly rooted in my love for Tommy – because to know and love Tommy – you at least have to appreciate the team that has such a big part of his heart.  Appreciate them I do and over the last millennium seven years that Tommy I have been together, I have truly developed a love for them myself.  I justify this love based on the fact that the Pats are an AFC team and rarely compete against the Bears.  When the two teams do meet however, rest assured I root for the Bears (not that it helps considering the last two meetings that I attended resulting in Patriot wins!).

The past weekend, the Patriots played in the AFC championship against the Baltimore Ravens.  Unfortunately, they were not victorious.  The Patriots loss was a total shock to me, because I had seen them give the Houston Texans a good romping the week before, and thought they were pretty unstoppable.  I was so confident in fact that I prepared a New England themed dinner, in their honor, that I planned to share with all of you as an idea for a riff on traditional Super Bowl party food.  On the menu – New England Clam Chowder and Lobster Rolls.

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I also thought that because the Patriots are, in some ways “America’s team,” that apple pie would be a great dessert to serve (note that this is a “mini pie” because it was only for me and Kate!).

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I thought these foods, in addition to some San Francisco themed menu items (cioppino with sourdough bread, wontons as a nod to the city’s iconic China town, crossed my mind as good menu ideas!) would be such a fun twist on the standard nachos, chips and dip and fried food you find at SB parties.

Now that the Patriots aren’t in the Super Bowl, I guess I will just have to urge you to make these dishes regardless!  They were so super satisfying and made me nostalgic for summers in Cape Cod!

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For those of you who live outside of New England, the lobster meat will be a bit of a splurge.  At a local fish shop in Chicago, the prices for live lobsters range from $15-$18/lb and lobster meat alone was $60/lb.  The guys at the fish shop told me that the price for the meat ends up being the same either way, so I opted to not have to deal with cooking the lobsters and just got lobster meat (which was a mixture of both claw and tail meat). 

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The clam chowder was much more reasonably priced to make.  For one, Costco often has fresh clams that are very inexpensive, so if you were making a big batch of this clam chowder, that would be prefect.  Because this was only for Kate and me, I got the clams at the same fish market I got the lobster and paid $6 per a dozen cherry stone clams (plus they threw in some extras). 

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True New Englanders would tell you that you do not need to use cherry stone clams in chowder – that the small clams should be reserved for steaming and eating straight with butter.  Because traditional chowder usually has chopped clams instead of whole clams, it is more typical to use the big quahogs.  But I say, use whatever you can find!  I can attest that both cherry stones and quahogs taste great in chowder.

Overall, the combination of chowder and lobster rolls was fantastic.  It went particularly well with the AFC Championship on in the background!

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Although the Patriots didn’t win, I was still happy I made these dishes and will certainly make them again (with or without a football game on!).  I was also very fortunate to have pie at the ready because I did some emotional eating to get through the loss!

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I am thinking that I may even make these dishes for Tommy in the coming weeks to help cheer him up as he is still in a state of depression.  Alongside a bowl of steaming chowder and nice fresh lobster roll, I will also remind him of the common Chicago creed: “There’s Always Next Year!”

New England Themed Tailgating Party:

  • Lobster Rolls
  • New England Clam Chowder
  • Apple Pie

Lobster Rolls – Serves 4

 Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lobster meat (or the meat from 2 1 1/2 lb lobsters), cut into large chunks
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3 TB of lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup mayo (you can add more if it looks a little dry)
  • S+P to taste (start with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 pepper)
  • 4 hot dog buns (preferably split top if you can find them), toasted
  • 2 TB butter, melted

Directions

Add lobster, celery, mayo, lemon juice and S+ P to a large bowl. 

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Stir everything to combined and taste for seasoning. Adjust as necessary.  Toast the hot dog buns in an oven and spread the insides with melted butter.  Add lobster salad mixture to buns and serve!

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Clam Chowder– Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 dozen cherry stone clams, scrubbed (if you are using bigger clams you don’t need as many)
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 5-6 thyme leaves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • S+P to taste
  • Oyster crackers, optional
  • 2 TB of minced parsley, optional

Directions:

In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Remove bacon from the pan, roughly chop and set aside. Reserve bacon fat.

Add the clams and 1 cup of water to a large pot.  Cover the pot and cook the clams over high heat for 5 minutes.  Uncover the pot to see if any of the clams have opened. Remove those that have.  Keep cooking remaining clams for another 2-3 minutes, checking every 1-2 minutes to remove opened clams.  Discard and clams that do not open after 7-8 minutes of total cooking time.

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The water that you used to steam the clams will not be flavored with lots of clam flavor and will serve as the broth in the soup.  Because clams often have sand in them, you want to make sure to strain this broth well.  I find that the best way to do this is by using a fine mesh sieve with a coffee filter inside of it.  Reserve the strained clam broth.

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Meanwhile, in another large pot (don’t use the same one you steamed the clams in without washing it because it likely has sand in it), pour in the reserved bacon fat and heat over medium heat.  Add the onions and celery and sauté for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not browned.  Add the chopped Yukon potato’s and cook for another 5 minutes.

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After 5 minutes, add flour and stir to combine with all the vegetables. 

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Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the reserved clam broth and whisk until there are no lumps.  Add thyme, bay leaves and salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each).

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Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat.  Cook for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  Meanwhile, remove clams from their shells and chop into small pieces.

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Add the chopped clams, milk and cream to the pot.  Stir to combine and cook for another 2-3 minutes to combine all the flavors and heat through.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Serve the soup with oyster crackers, reserved bacon and minced parsley.

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Apple Pie – Makes 1 9-10 inch pie (pie crust is “Perfect Pie Crust” Recipe by Ina Garten)

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 12 TB butter (1 1/2 sticks), very cold, cubbed
  • 1/3 cups vegetable shortening, very cold
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6-8 TB very cold water

Filling

  • 5-6 apples, peeled and sliced
  • 3 TB butter, cubbed
  • 2 TB lemon juice, plus more for spraying on top of the apples to prevent oxidation
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions:

First, you will want to prepare the pie crust.  The easiest way to make it is in the food processor in my opinion, but feel free to use a pastry cutter as well.

Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor with the steel blade attachment.  Pulse the flour and salt to combine.  Then add the vegetable shortening and the butter.  Pulse 10-15 times until the butter is the size of peas.  Then, with the machine running, very slowly pour in the cold water until the dough begins to form a bowl.  Dump dough out onto a flowered board and roll into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the dough is getting cold, you can prep the filling for the pie.  Peel and slice the apples and spray with squeeze of lemon to prevent browning.  Add to a medium sized bowl and add the sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and lemon juice.  Stir everything to combine and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

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At this point, you can pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Once the dough has chilled for long enough, remove the ball from the fridge and cut in half.  Place one half of the dough on a floured board and the other back in the fridge.  Roll out half of the dough and place into your pie dish.  Add the apples on top of the dough.

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Add the cubed pieces of butter on top of the apples.

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Finally, roll out the other half of the dough, place on top of the apples and crimp the top and the bottom together so that they form a nice seal around the apples.  Brush the pie crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and sugar, if desired.  Cut 2-3 slits on the top of the pie crust to allow steam to escape.

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Place the pie dish on a cookie sheet (trust me, the sugar oozes out and its easier to clean a cookie sheet than it is your oven!) and bake for 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees.  Reduce heat to 350 and cook for an additional 10-20 minutes until the top of the pie is lightly browned and the juices beginning to bubble.

Remove from the oven and cool.  Serve at room temperature or slightly warm.

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Sorry for the length of the post, but I hope you enjoy all these New England themed dishes!!

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