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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Food for thought: deep-fried pork brains

Posted By on 09.27.17 at 09:31 PM

Bill Walker, chef at the Kennison, has nothing against offal. He's even open to brains as long as they're fresh. But when Stephen Hasson of Ugo's challenged Walker to create a dish with Rose Pork Brain in Milk Gravy, Walker struggled with fact that the product comes in a can. For one thing, its smell and taste reminded him of another canned meat—namely, cat food. "[The brains are] just off-putting in a pink paste of milk gravy in a can," he says.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Watch chef Stephen Hasson make Manischewitz brisket pizza

Posted By on 08.31.17 at 06:45 AM

Growing up, Stephen Hasson remembers sneaking tastes of Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine in the back of his temple. So when Ashlee Aubin of Wood and Salero restaurants challenged the chef at Ugo's Kitchen & Bar to create a dish with the sweet wine, he immediately thought of his childhood. "We always had a bottle around, just sort of ceremonially, but it ended up going down the drain quite a bit," he says. "I think the children would sneak more of it than the adults."

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Watch chef Ashlee Aubin make salad with ‘gray fish meatballs’

Posted By on 08.09.17 at 07:48 PM

Gefilte fish—the traditional Passover dish of ground whitefish mixed with matzo meal, egg, vegetables, and seasonings—can be divisive, inspiring headlines like "Gefilte Fish: Is It Really That Bad?" and "Gefilte Fish: Why, Oy Why?" But until Adam Wendt of the Delta challenged Ashlee Aubin to create a dish with gefilte fish, the chef at Salero and Wood restaurants had tried only homemade versions, which he thought were pretty good. Wendt, however, specified that Aubin had to use Manischewitz brand of gefilte fish in gelled broth, which turned out to be a very different beast.

"When you open the jar there's some gray, murky-looking jellied liquid that gray fish meatballs are basically floating in," Aubin says. "The flavor's a little hard to describe, because it's fishy but it's not like a clean ocean- fish sort of flavor. It's a little bit like cat food. The texture is soft, squishy, almost bouncy, like the mystery-meat meat loafs that were popular in the 80s."

Ashlee Aubin - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Ashlee Aubin

Traditionally, gefilte fish is served cold—for good reason, as Aubin discovered. The first thing he tried to do with it was make a brandade: gefilte fish pureed with potatoes, garlic, and cream and then baked. "That was one of the worst things I've ever tasted in my life," Aubin says. "I couldn't get the flavor out of my mouth for hours. A shot of tequila—nothing would stop it." Then he made tempura-fried gefilte fish. "Everything's good fried, but not gefilte fish," he says. After other experiments that included sauteing the ingredient, Aubin concluded that gefilte fish should not be served hot. "Even cut with something like potato, the flavor is ten times more intense when you heat it up," he says.

Instead, Aubin turned to tuna salad for inspiration. He took both regular gefilte fish and a version that he'd pickled, chopped them up, and tossed in crunchy vegetables: snap peas, cucumber, and red onion. An herbed creme fraiche dressing not only added flavor but covered up the color of the fish, Aubin said. He garnished the salad with sliced radishes, purslane, dill flowers, and fried hominy. "I always like corn in tuna salad," he says. He also used another fried element to introduce even more fish flavor: halibut chicharrones (halibut skin that he simmered, dehydrated, and deep-fried). Aubin opted not to use the jellied broth that the fish balls were packed in, but he did make his own gel from tomato water and horseradish for a "fresh, sharp" element.

Ashlee Aubin, chef at Salero and Wood restaurants, turned to tuna salad for inspiration. - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Ashlee Aubin, chef at Salero and Wood restaurants, turned to tuna salad for inspiration.

The result, Aubin says, tastes mostly like vegetables and horseradish, with "a distinct seafood flavor at the end." He adds that, while the dish actually tastes pretty good, "it's definitely not ever going on one of my menus."

Who's next:
Aubin has challenged Stephen Hasson of Ugo's Kitchen & Bar to create a dish with Manischewitz Concord Grape wine, continuing the Manischewitz theme.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Watch Delta chef Adam Wendt turn the humble yellow onion into the star of the show

Posted By on 07.03.17 at 01:48 PM

Onions have been cultivated for at least 7,000 years. They're one of the most common ingredients in almost every cuisine. So when Gabino "Bino" Ottoman of the Ruin Daily challenged Adam Wendt, chef at the soon-to-open Wicker Park restaurant the Delta, to build a dish around yellow onions, Wendt had his work cut out for him. "It's kind of a crazy ingredient to be challenged with, because it literally goes into everything," he says. "It was just figuring what I wanted to do, and then trying to throw as much onion at it as I could."

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Learn how to make jerky and an agua fresca using tamarillo

Posted By on 06.19.17 at 01:20 PM

Tamarillo, also known as the tree tomato, is native to Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and Bolivia and is widely grown in New Zealand as a commercial crop. But it's not easy to buy the fruit in Chicago, says Gabino "Bino" Ottoman of the Ruin Daily, who was challenged by Carlos Cruz (Saint Lou's Assembly) to create a dish with it. Ottoman did find one store in Humboldt Park that sells pureed tamarillo, and Cruz was able to supply him with frozen whole fruit. "[Carlos] thought he was getting me because no one's really heard of tamarillo, but I worked at Le Bernadin [in New York], and there's way more Ecuadorians there than there are in Chicago," Ottoman says. "Every summer they would get sent Ecuadorian tree tomatoes from their families and make tamarillo agua fresca for the whole restaurant. I stole that idea for this."

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Watch Saint Lou’s Assembly chef Carlos Cruz make a ‘land caviar’ dish that really pops

Posted By on 05.22.17 at 03:52 PM

"Land caviar" is a common nickname for tonburi—the seed of a plant known as kochia or burning bush, among other names. In Japan, the seeds are considered a delicacy similar to caviar and used as a garnish for sushi; in China they're used in traditional medicine. Chef Carlos Cruz of Saint Lou's Assembly, challenged by John Kirchner of GT Prime to create a dish with tonburi, says, "It wasn't what I expected. There's not that much flavor to it."

"Everyone talks about how it's like caviar, it pops in your mouth," Cruz says. "It does pop in your mouth just a little, but it's not extreme." The tiny seeds are dried and boiled before being placed in jars and sold commercially; they're typically served as is, but Cruz went to great lengths to bring out their flavor. "I've tried toasting it, fermenting it, even blooming it," he says. Cruz compares the smell to tea. What little flavor there is, he says, is grassy and earthy.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

A GT Prime chef creates a sticky-sweet pairing for foie gras

Posted By on 04.14.17 at 11:41 AM

This year Marshmallow Fluff, America’s oldest brand of marshmallow creme, celebrates its 100th anniversary. It wasn’t the first commercially available version—that honor goes to a brand called Snowflake—but it has outlasted its rival by more than 50 years. And Fluff has a particularly devoted following, especially in Massachusetts, where it was invented and is honored with an annual “What the Fluff” festival. (The state also made national headlines in 2006 after a senator filed a measure that would limit serving Fluffernutter sandwiches in school cafeterias to once a week, which provoked outrage and prompted other legislators to propose making the Fluffernutter the state sandwich.)

The other brands of marshmallow creme sold in the U.S. are Solo and Kraft, and it’s the latter that Emily Stewart of Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits chose for GT Prime chef John Kirchner's challenge. Kirchner hates marshmallows, he says, because of their texture, though the softer marshmallow creme (which uses egg whites in place of gelatin) isn’t so bad. He didn’t grow up eating the confection, though he does remember having a Fluffernutter sandwich in high school and immediately forming a “fake band” with his friends called Garbage Juice and the Fluffernutters. “We played no actual instruments—it was more for status,” he says.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

A pie fit for a samurai warrior from Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits chef Emily Stewart

Posted By on 03.20.17 at 05:44 PM

Emily Stewart, executive chef at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, says that umeboshi "tastes like a Warhead that's been tossed in vinegar, but with the texture of a pickled smushy fruit." Made from the ume fruit, which is often referred to as a Japanese plum but is actually more like an apricot, umeboshi are packed in salt and left to ferment in their own liquid.
"[Ume] are naturally salty and sour, and then [the Japanese] really lean into that flavor profile," Stewart says. Famously, samurai warriors would eat umeboshi to promote vitality and energy before going into battle.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Chef Ben Lustbader of Giant makes bread with the ‘bacon of the sea’

Posted By on 02.10.17 at 01:47 PM

Dulse, a type of seaweed that grows in the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is lauded as a health food that, according to some, tastes remarkably similar to bacon. Chef Ben Lustbader of Giant, challenged by Publican Anker's A.J. Walker to create a dish with the seaweed, was skeptical. "People call it the bacon of the sea," he says. "I don't really think it tastes a whole lot like bacon. One of my cooks described the flavor as malty, which seemed a little more on point to me."

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Watch Publican Anker chef A.J. Walker make gluten-free falafel

Posted By on 01.16.17 at 04:10 PM

In our gluten-averse society, a gluten-free grain that's virtually unknown sounds all but impossible. Job's tears, which have been consumed for centuries across Asia, are technically not a grain (the plant is part of the grass family), but that didn't stop Bon Appetit from declaring them "the next cult gluten-free grain" last year. In the case of the wild strain, Job's tears are often dried and used as beads, while the softer domesticated version can be steamed like rice, ground into flour, boiled to make tea, and brewed into beer.

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