Big spoon pork stir-fry recipe and tips

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There are few things I eat with the big spoon. Tonight’s dish is one of those supreme dishes.

I’ve been craving good Chinese food for years. There’s a huge leap between passable Chinese food and that really good spot you’ve been going to for years. I have yet to find that spot, so I have one option: do it myself.

Last week I made a batch of shrimp and bacon egg rolls that were promptly documented and inhaled. Inspired by that recipe, I revisited stir fry at home. The trick is to have ingredients already made so it’s simply a matter of combining the ingredients. I managed to cut and fry all this up in less than 20 minutes.

What I had:
Cooked pork roast
Cooked Basmati rice
Celery
Mushrooms
Garlic
Bean sprouts
Cabbage cole slaw mix

Most of these ingredients were leftovers from the egg rolls. Here’s the secret to great stir fry: peanut butter.

Thank me now and thank me afterwards UNLESS you are allergic to peanuts.

Start with heating a pan and adding vegetable oil. Add a tablespoon of peanut butter. Once those have melted together start adding in chopped veggies and meat. If you are vegetarian, a policy I don’t support, this dish can still work for you. Sauté the veggies in the peanut sauce, chopping and adding more. Don’t let the peanut butter/veggie mix get too dark, that means the heat is too high and you’ve burnt your potential masterpiece. Since the meat was already cooked, my sequence was veggies, meat, garlic, Chinese five spice, rice, soy sauce.

Experiment with this and share your veggie combos.

Adamus Dinner | Chicago Food Bloggers

adamus, dinner, hotel, chicago, gourmet

Going to experience a tasting menu at a restaurant is a food-lover’s dream, especially if your idea of fine dining is ordering guacamole at Chipotle. What’s an even more unique experience is dining with fellow food lovers. No longer are you the weird one who is photographing your food before consumption.

Adamus (10 S. Wabash) is in Chicago’s loop and is housed inside the Silversmith Hotel. They invited Chicago Food Bloggers to sample their fall offerings. Joining area food bloggers was akin to being one of the judges on Top Chef.

Arugula and goat cheese? You have my attention.

The restaurant features a round bar near the street and several booths along the rectangular dining space. The lines were clean and the booths looked inviting for those looking to enjoy not being in their hotel room. Our long table dissected the space in between the booths on the perimeter.

The Liquor

Continue reading Adamus Dinner | Chicago Food Bloggers

Secrets to a Perfect Dinner Party

crostini, bruschetta, eggplant, olives, dinner party, entertain

BACON WEEK

So you want to throw a dinner party…

I had been wanting to gather friends for dinner parties for a few years. You can only post recipes and pictures of your creations for so long before a hangry mob requests samples. Tackling the Mealsharing dinner party with Leann taught several lessons. It also prepped me for the eventual showdown on Food Network. You may think it’s easy to just scale your recipes for more people. That works for some dishes. Others require increased planning and maybe even writing things down–something I have an extreme aversion to. For larger dinners it’s imperative to make checklists and think out the approach.

The Appetizers

Make anything that can be made in advance. This time around we had an electric knife to slice the bread evenly. We also had time to prep the bread and rub each slice with a clove of garlic before guests arrived. While I sliced the bread, my sous chef to the stars prepped the four different toppings. (I found the grilled eggplant superior to its oven-roasted counterpart). All the recipes for the toppings came from my grandma’s cousin in Sicily.

Having appetizers ready to go when people arrive buys you time to chat with your friends.

The Main Event

In the span of a few months I have gone from never making carbonara to making it on a weekly basis. It’s a simple and crowd-pleasing dish, especially for carb lovers. To offset the decadence of the dish, we had a salad to put something that won’t add 50 points to your LDL. In a rare moment I failed to photograph the salad.

While it is very fast to make carbonara, the downside is you can’t make it ahead. You can prep the cheese and eggs (best ratio for one pound of pasta is 3 egg yolks & 1 whole egg to 1/2 pound shredded parm), but that’s about all you can make ahead of time. You’ll need 10 minutes to devote to properly marry the piping hot pasta with the creamy egg/cheese/pepper combo.

During those 10 minutes you have to focus. It’s a simple process–drain the noodles, add to egg/cheese/pepper, toss–but you need to do it immediately after draining the pasta to use the heat to cook the raw eggs. After that it’s go time.

Dessert

dessert, tiramisu, espressoAfter buttons were undone and sighs of surrender, we had some limoncello and moved to more accommodating seating to stretch out. If anyone is still awake, feed them this closer to make sure they get home safely. Leann took charge of dessert and crushed it again with her homemade tiramisu.

Recap

  1. Make a list and attack it.
  2. Make anything ahead that can be.
  3. Share the responsibilities. Ask friends to bring wine, salad or a dessert.
  4. Wine and limoncello make everything better.
  5. Find a helper. I lucked out with my sous chef.
  6. Don’t forget to play some music.
  7. Keep it simple and have fun. The dinner party is more about spending time with friends than perfectly executed dishes.

Carbs in the Clouds | Mealsharing for the First Time

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I have cooked for family. I have cooked for dates. I have cooked for judges. But now it was time to cook for strangers.

A few weeks ago I met Jessica, one of the founders of Mealsharing.com, at a meeting for Chicago Food Bloggers. Sharing photos and stories on here is great, but I have been looking for a space for friends and strangers to sample my creations. Jessica said she knew people who would host if I was willing to cook. I emailed my friends to pick a date, then started planning the menu.

The Prep

I settled on crostini with four different toppings, a salad, carbonara alla bucatini and tiramisu. If you read this blog on a regular basis you know I rarely bake. My girlfriend offered her services to whip up tiramisu from scratch.

On mealsharing, you can specify where, how much guest should chip in and how many people you’d like to host. I figured 10 of my friends might come. Thursday night I only had one faithful friend who had registered. I considered rescheduling the dinner. On Friday, friends and strangers started claiming all the seats to sell out the event.

We hit a few stores to procure all the ingredients. For the crostini toppings I reached out to my grandma’s cousin Ciccio in Sicily for advice. He sent three suggestions for Crostini marsalesi: Patè di olive, Patè di tonno in scatola and Patè di pomodoro. I added roasted eggplant with roasted garlic to the lineup. I made all of these with my KitchenAid Chopper before heading to the city.

The Meal

Leann and I emerged victorious in the battle against rush hour traffic from the ‘burbs. We stopped at Mariano’s in the South Loop to get the final ingredients. Ben & Jerry’s was camped outside with free samples, which served as an energy booster after a long drive. Once at the space, Leann and I may have skipped around in amusement. The space Jessica set me up with was a common space for a condo building in the South Loop. It overlooked Soldier Field, Lake Michigan and had an unrivaled view of downtown’s skyscrapers. Leann and I unpacked our items, started prepping and wondering if they’d ever know if decided to never leave that rooftop paradise.

Guests started arriving shortly after 7:15. Scaling a recipe for 4 to serve 12 isn’t as simple as you would hope.

I know why they called it a miracle when Jesus fed all the guests at Cana. He was smart to limit the menu to loaves and fishes.

Leann and my friends jumped in as sous chef to help me get the food out. The crostini and salad bought me time to assemble the carbonara. There was a bit of a delay between courses, but thankfully no one rushed the kitchen. After the carbonara was done, everyone left the kitchen to enjoy wine, food and conversation.

The Dessert

Not long after plating myself carbonara and crostini most of the food was finished! Always a good sign. We sat for a bit letting the food digest. Then it was time for the jewel of the meal: Leann’s homemade tiramisu. My friend Miguel, who was carb loading before two triathlons this weekend, snapped a pic of tiramisu with Chicago’s skyline as the backdrop. Then one of the guests began getting every last bit of tiramisu out of the pan. It was too good to let any go to waste.

Recap

Huge thanks to Jessica and Jay for allowing me to share my love of cooking with friends and strangers in a ridiculously awesome space. I was a bit ambitious in aiming to make all the food on the menu. A salad, main and dessert would be more feasible. A make-ahead dish would also enable more interaction with my friends and guests. Carbonara doesn’t reheat well, so I was in the kitchen most of the night.

Next time I will simplify the menu and limit the number of guests to four. Overall, it was a great experience and sharpened my kitchen skills. Plus it confirmed I have some great close friends who trekked out and helped me make this dinner in the clouds a reality.

Underground dinners may be all the rage for foodies, but I like my food with a view.

Tortillas are Mini-Plates | Tortilla Challenge

tortilla, tortilla challenge, chicken, dinner

tortilla, tortilla challenge, chicken, dinner

How can I make smoked chicken better?

As much as I love tortillas, smoked chicken and assorted fatty meats are my summer go-to. Most weekends I’ll grab a whole chicken or roast for the grill. My summer approach is cook once, eat all weeklong. Much like my #TortillaChallenge, I think of different ways to consume smoked chicken. You’ll notice it makes a frequent appearance in a lot of these posts.

I noticed I don’t have a thorough walk through of how to turn your grill into a smoker, so I’ll take more detailed photos next time I fire up the coals.

The above dinner was a smoked chicken leg and thigh served with blanched green beans, slices of pecorino, cherry tomatoes on a grilled tortilla plate topped with bulgur.

I’ve made bulgur a few times so far. It’s a faster quinoa without as much protein. So if you are impatient or starving, go for the bulgur instead of quinoa.

Consult your hierarchy of grains: white rice<brown rice<bulgur<quinoa

Coincidentally, the price also escalates as you buy more nutritious grains, with quinoa high atop the pennies per grain metric.

These quickly turned into bulgur and green bean tacos using the smoked chicken like sprinkled cheese.

Freezer Finds | Chicken Patties avec Rib Meat

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Sunday has become my “me” day. Household chores that I delayed for a week and vigorous napping are always on the agenda. I’ve added in yoga and grocery shopping. If whether permits I’ll grill enough meat to last through the week.

This weekend I started clearing space in the freezer after battling the avalanche of foil-wrapped mystery meats. In the process I found some pre-made chicken patties i’d forgotten about.

I love these chicken patties. I get them at aldi for $2/box. They are a quick dinner and a better option than fast food. They aren’t the healthiest option but sometimes you have a hankering for fried chicken with that coveted rib meat. You can slice them and add to salads. Or jazz them up with a BBQ dressing. Tonight I made two. The first had red onion, romaine and some pesto sauce. The next bun was shellacked with whole grain mustard.

As a side, I sautéed sweet potato I. Olive oil and added some cinnamon.

Dinner in 10 minutes. And it’s probably already in your freezer.

What’s your best freezer find/creation?

Chasing Carbonara | Attempt 2

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If at first you don’t succeed making a dish, try, try again.

Since returning from Roma I’ve been chasing that perfect carbonara. It’s a diabolically simple dish with only a few ingredients. The first attempt was good but not as creamy as the plate I devoured in Trastevere. Last week at a restaurant in the ‘burbs I tried another carbonara dish. It wasn’t as good as my first effort. So I had two choices: go back to Roma or try to make it myself.

Sadly, my bank account doesn’t yet afford me the chance to haphazardly chase pasta dishes around the globe. I could however go to Trader Joes and get some cheese and thick-cut apple wood bacon.

Revisions since last time:
-Parmesan instead of pecorino.
-3 yolks and 1 whole egg.
-Heavily salt pasta water.
-If you think you’ve added enough freshly ground pepper, you haven’t. Add more.
-Use more bacon.
-Sprinkle in a few red pepper flakes.
-Remember to add minced garlic to cooked bacon and oil.

The sauce’s texture was bellissimo. The fettuccine noodles were al dente.

Short of looking out on the Tiber or Colloseo, this dish has been conquered.

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