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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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Monday, November 14, 2016

Watch Blackbird chef Ryan Pfeiffer make a dish with a British condiment that ‘looks like shit but tastes good’

Posted By on 11.14.16 at 11:36 AM


British food is famously bad, and British potato chips (or "crisps," as they call them) are famously weird. When Lay's started introducing flavors like cappuccino and southern biscuits and gravy a couple years ago, the company must've known that the Brits don't even blink at chip flavorings such as prawn cocktail, beef and onion, roast chicken, ketchup, oyster and vinegar, and Marmite. So it's not particularly surprising that the UK brand Walkers once introduced a potato chip flavored like Branston Pickle, a pickled chutney first made in Branston, England, in 1922. Blackbird chef de cuisine Ryan Pfeiffer, challenged by the Betty's Rachel Dow to create a dish with the condiment, didn't come across the potato chips (they've been discontinued), but he did track down a couple jars of Branston Pickle on Amazon.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Watch the Betty’s chef create a dish with amaranth, a tiny seed with a bloody history

Posted By on 10.14.16 at 12:46 PM

Five hundred years ago, growing amaranth in Mexico was a crime punishable by death: the Spanish invaders had outlawed cultivating or even possessing the staple crop. Key to both the diet and religion of the Aztecs, amaranth seeds were mixed with honey and human blood, formed into cakes shaped like the gods, and then eaten in religious ceremonies—a practice with which the conquistadors took issue. But despite the ban, enough amaranth continued to grow in the wild that it never died out, and today throughout the continent there's increased interest  in the high-protein, gluten-free seeds (while it's often called a grain, technically amaranth is a pseudocereal, like quinoa and buckwheat).

So when Sarah Jordan of Johnny's Grill challenged Rachel Dow, chef at the Betty, to create a dish with amaranth, Dow had no trouble finding it. Working with it was another matter. "It kind of tastes like dirt," she says. "Definitely extremely earthy. I probably wouldn't choose to eat it very often." Amaranth can be ground into flour, boiled like rice, or popped like popcorn. Dow tried preparing it a couple of ways, and found that popping it was harder than she expected—"If the pan is too hot it burns [the seeds] before they pop; if it's too cold nothing happens."

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Watch a Johnny’s Grill chef make chorizo with ‘wheat meat’

Posted By on 09.16.16 at 02:07 PM

"I'm a good Irish girl who has meat and two veg for most meals," says Sarah Jordan, the chef at Johnny's Grill. Vital wheat gluten, a staple for vegetarians and the main component in seitan—often used as a meat substitute—wasn't exactly in her wheelhouse. But when Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp of Honey Butter Fried Chicken challenged her to create a dish with the protein found in wheat (also called "wheat meat" or just "gluten"), Jordan, who'd never worked with the ingredient before, rose to the occasion.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

The chefs at Honey Butter Fried Chicken make chicken wings with ‘a pop of ant’

Posted By on 08.12.16 at 02:33 PM

Eating ant eggs is common in Mexico, where they're called escamoles, and in Thailand, where they're used as a tart accent to salads, omelets, and other dishes. In Chicago, though, the ant eggs and pupae of the type usually consumed are few and far between. So when Tony Lomanto and Anthony Alfonsi of Kuma's Corner challenged Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp to create a dish with ant eggs, the Honey Butter Fried Chicken chefs had to do some searching.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Watch Kuma’s Corner chefs make a spotted-dick burger

Posted By on 07.18.16 at 05:09 PM

"People don't take it very kindly when you ask for spotted dick," Tony Lomanto of Kuma's Corner says. Challenged by Pat Niebling of b>Three Floyds Brewpub to create a dish with the British dessert, Lomanto and his sous chef, Anthony Alfonsi, called a couple of stores in search of it—eliciting mixed reactions—before ordering it online. While it's possible to make the steamed suet pudding from scratch, the dessert with the chuckle-worthy name also comes in cans. (In 2009, a British catering company briefly changed the name to "Spotted Richard" on its menus in an attempt to avoid "unwelcome and childish comments," as a spokesman told the Telegraph, before public outrage forced them to reinstate the original name.) 

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