Repertoire | The Dinner Party

Rules for success, including porchetta

25th Oct 2011

Ed. note: This is the third post in a "Repertoire" series on the interplay of food and style, with our friends The Midwestyle . We're helping their readers learn a few recipes, and they're teaching us a few things about doing it in style.

To say you’re an accomplished person is putting it lightly. That time you summited Kilimanjaro during a snow storm. The month you took a vow of silen...

Italian Bean Salad with ''Loadsa'' Herbs and Tuna

Cooking from Chicago's New Dose Market, Happening Again This Sunday

8th Jul 2011

The Italian bean salad has been with me a long time, and for good reason.  I've made some variation of beans, herbs, and olive oil dozens of times over the past few years and I never get tired of it.  When it comes to the relationship between deliciousness and effort, this one gets it exactly right. It's about as easy as mixing the ingredients together and letting the flavors develop, then it'...

Engineering the Perfect Risotto

From Bone Marrow to Saffron

28th Feb 2011

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Learning how to make risotto at home was one of the more liberating experiences of my early culinary career. The idea that I could create a perfectly legitimate risotto by just buying arborio rice and stirring like mad, was enough to make me wonder what else I couldn’t cook. I’m not going to say it single-handedly helped launch this blog and my writing career, but it was crucial. It was...

Idea Lab | Is it Possible to Make Transcendent Risotto at Home?

And: Should Risotto Spread?

17th Feb 2011

If you’re a Top Chef junkie like me then you probably remember that Tre got kicked off episode 8 this season after serving a risotto that didn’t “spread.” At least, that’s what judge Tom Colicchio said. It’s always hard to know exactly why contestants are booted off the show when you can't taste the food, but this was one of those cases where you could visibly see that his riso...

Lamb Pancetta | Charcutepalooza February Challenge

Plus, a Killer Recipe To Use It In

15th Feb 2011

Lamb-Pancetta

We are thrilled to be participating in Charcutepalooza , an organized blogging movement of people writing about the noble art of charcuterie. Scores of people around the country (or even the world?) are making and writing about bacon, pancetta, and other delicious variations this fine month of February—and throughout the year, will be embarking on ever-cooler projects like brining, and smo...

Tomato Conserva: How to Make Homemade Tomato Paste

Our solution for what to do with too many tomatoes

27th Aug 2010

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There isn't much argument that summertime is the peak season for cooking. It never gets easier than in August: the produce is top-notch, everywhere, and cheap. Locavores are finally settling down and enjoying themselves instead of passing judgement on the rest of us for buying zucchini out of season. You can make dinner by cutting up tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and calling it a masterpiece....

My Chicago: Cafe Spiaggia

Chicago's famed restaurant revamps their cafe

11th Aug 2010

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Spiaggia isn’t the sort of restaurant you waltz into on a whim--you have to wear a jacket to eat there, its gorgeous dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows, they have a cheese cave, and, oh, it’s really, really expensive. But the secret is that Spiaggia also has a cafe . It’s casual, intimate, and the food is superb. The attention to detail that is expected of a high-end restaurant...

Pasta with Butter, Bottarga, and Breadcrumbs

"The bacon of fish" elevates this simple pasta to transcendence

11th May 2010

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You may remember awhile back my lamenting post about a favorite ingredient I couldn't find in Chicago. The ingredient that Claudia at Cook Eat Fret christened " the bacon of fish ." Something relatively undiscovered and very difficult to find in the U.S. A secret ingredient, you might say. Well, I'm done lamenting. Because I have found bottarga, the cured roe sack that's pressed and dr...

Homemade Gnudi from The Spotted Pig

Make these ethereal little bites at home.

15th Apr 2010

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I'm pretty sure the word "gnudi" wasn't on anyone's radar until they were served at The Spotted Pig in New York, which was when they became a food dork household name. In Italian, "gnudi" means what it sounds like in English: naked. It refers to little pasta-like dumplings that are "naked" of their pasta wrapper, raviolis without anything to enclose them. Gnudi are a bit like gnocchi, but...

The Creation of Will''s Special

The brief, wondrous history of a Chicago sandwich.

14th Apr 2010

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A few weeks ago, a mad group of seven men took part in the great Chicago Italian Sub Tour of 2010 . We visited six places, ate way more than we should have, and came away with the pretty definite conclusion that J.P. Graziano served the best Italian sub of the day. They used the best bread, and paid the most attention to each individual element of the sandwich. Oddly though, mixed in w...

The Best Italian Sub in Chicago: A Tour of Six Delis

Which Italian deli in Chicago makes the best subs?

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We assembled at 11 a.m., seven hungry men, at J. P. Graziano's. This unadorned storefront in the restaurant supply district of Chicago's West Loop seemed like an odd place to begin a journey to find the best Italian sub in Chicago. The shop's exterior had no tell-tale signals that it made sandwiches--just a sign stating their business as wholesale importers. The interior contained no vine...

Can Pesto Be Improved?

Not all pesto is created the same.

19th Feb 2010

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I've been eating pesto with pasta since I knew how to boil water. That dense, fragrant, herb-y concentrate tossed with hot noodles -- it's magic. Even when I had no idea how to cook and bought pesto in a jar, it was wonderful and my favorite dinner. It provides that burst of freshness in the middle of February, and it's delicious enough that the flavor stays in my brain for days.

The only p...

Idea Lab: Focaccia Pizza

Can great pizza be made at home quickly?

12th Jan 2010

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Idea Lab is where we explore topics before we head into the kitchen. We welcome your thoughts, opinions, and ideas, so please leave them in the comments!

Though I once praised the virtues of the broiling pizza on Serious Eats, I'm now over it. I'm tired of broiler antics and pre-heating cast iron pans to make approximations of Neopolitan-style pizza at home (I've already ruined one ba...

Rafa''s Restaurant, and Other Highlights from the Costa Brava

Visiting the Spanish coast.

22nd Jun 2009

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Barcelona was a wonderful city to be in, but leaving it was just as fun. Installed in a tiny stick-shift Citroen, we headed north from the city for Costa Brava, opting for the cheaper no-toll road that snakes along the coast and could take twice as long. Driving in Europe was harrowing the first time I did it, but I've since learned to embrace the speeding, reckless flow--I figure it's safe...

Restaurants We Weren''t Looking For: Provence

Blake finds hidden gems in France.

21st May 2009

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Our goal for eating in France, as our budget was limited, was to find simple and unpretentious food.  And though we hit the ground running with a list of online recommendations culled from a number of sources--an article in Travel + Leisure , searches on Chowhound and eGullet, guidebooks galore--some of our best and most memorable meals came from eclectic little spots that nobody had writt...

Deep-Dish Pizza: Round 2

Nick learns from his mistakes and makes a good deep-dish pie at home.

3rd Apr 2009

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I was determined not to fail this time.  My last attempt at deep-dish wasn't an absolute failure, but it was close.  It was too soggy and messy , and had none of the glorious qualities that my favorite Chicago pizzeria, Pequods , displayed.  I theorized about all kinds reasons for the failure, thinking it had something to do with the crust.  Then I just gave up and asked you all...

Giardiniera

How to make Chicago's favorite condiment.

30th Mar 2009

Most of the recipes online are found on generic websites and just have a bunch of cut up vegetables mixed with olive oil, which I already knew was completely wrong.  There needed to be some kind of acidic kick, something to balance the aggressive heat and the fair amount of oil.

I had my first breakthrough when I found this random video from the Food Network show "Unwrapped".  They were visiti...

A Return Home: Roast Chicken with Crispy Drippings Croûtons

What Nick cooks when he feels nostalgic for simplicity.

10th Mar 2009

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I think part of the reason I took a break from roast chicken was the rising absurdity of my preparations.  A few years ago I had chased after juicy meat and crispy skin, by trying various combinations of slow roasting , extreme slow roasting , experiments with baking soda , and high, high heat .  The results were often spectacular, if never quite practical.  And somewhere alo...

"Saucisson" of Pork Tenderloin

A baby step towards making salami.

30th Nov 2008

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It's similar in appearance and texture, and has that unmistakable salty tang of cured meat.  I'm surprised it never occurred to me before, but the idea is simple.  Pork tenderloin, which is already in a convenient salami-like shape perfect for slicing, makes a perfect dry-curing project.

There is already one traditional cured meat called Lonzino , Italian, which is made not from the ten...

Ragù alla Bolognese

Because fresh pasta deserves a sauce this good.

20th Nov 2008

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Once I figured out how to make fresh pasta , I waited all of 12 hours before I set out to create my own Ragù alla Bolognese.  It was a goal of mine ever since watching an episode of Heston Blumenthal's TV series In Search of Perfection .  The premise of the show is for the acclaimed chef to reexamine some stodgy British classics by going back to the roots of the original dish.  His f...

Linguine with Clams from the Babbo Kitchen, via Bill Buford

From his memoir Heat

24th Jan 2008

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My favorite passages from Bill Buford's Heat are set in the Babbo kitchen, when he describes with fear and awe the wonder that is a busy restaurant kitchen at dinnertime-- tickets flying, steam vaporizing, oil popping. Orders arrive faster than they can be made; you are perpetually behind. The heat, of course, is unbearable-- like a shimmering wall when you enter the kitchen. Sweat...

The Duck Prosciutto Emerges

A results of a simple dry-cured meat project revealed

28th Nov 2007

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About ten days after I hung a salt-cured duck breast in the vestibule of my garden apartment, wrapped in cheesecloth and suspended by kitchen string in a little tent of wooden dowel rods, I retrieved it, unwrapped it, and laid it on a cutting board in my kitchen.  It was my first attempt at curing, my Duck Prosciutto .

The flesh had taken on a dark red, almost black color on the outside...

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce

Based on the potato, gnocchi is the ultimate pauper's meal--but it sure doesn't taste like it

28th Mar 2006

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Gnocchi.  No idea. For years this has been the unpronounceable dish on the menu that starred me down and begged to be blurted out to the uproarious laughter of the seasoned waiter.  "Did you hear what he just said?" Hell, I didn't have any idea what it was.  Was it a type of pasta?  Dumpling?  Did it have a filling?  This feeling of inadequacy kept the recognizable dish on the menu page...

White Risotto with Pesto

Trust this recipe, and never lose faith: it is actually quite simple, and can be used as a launching point for lots of other inspired ideas.

21st Jan 2006

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I remember vividly the first time I thumbed through a cookbook with a sense of purpose. I was home on a break during my freshman year of college, and my mom had been relating to me her excitement about a book my sister sent from London.  She excitedly exclaimed that “it had even been autographed.”  I smiled and nodded approvingly, unaffected.  It was a cookbook, after all.  My sister w...

Pasta Carbonara

This recipe loses the cream altogether, replacing it with white wine.

15th Jan 2006

Pasta Carbonara

  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 thin slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound farfalle pasta
  • 4 egg yolks
  • small handful chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from Cucina Rustica

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Get a huge pot of salted water boiling...