Monday, September 29, 2008

Beef Stew

I recently received a meat share from Arnolds Farm in Elizabeth, IL. I chose to go with a package of Grass-fed Beef which included quite a bit of ground beef as well as stew & fajita meat, roasts & a nice selection of steaks. It is nice to have a good source for beef that is close to home (less of a carbon foot-print), grass-fed (instead of grain - which is not good for the cows or in turn for us) and allowed to graze instead of being couped up in a pin (like most cows in the raised in the commercial farm machine). For our first meal we went with a simple stew, filled with the beef, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas, onion and celery. I also baked some fresh wheat bread (also pictured). Mmmm..wintery - can't wait for that first snow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mac and Cheese with Collard Greens

As the weather begins to turn fallish, my belly craves warm comforting foods. Pictured above is some Macaroni and Cheese paired with braised Collard Greens (from my Harvest Moon Farms CSA). The Mac. and Cheese is simple, but quite rewarding - my favorite is the crispy bottom of burnt-cheese goodness. To make this dish I prepared 2 cups of macaroni as directed, made a Béchamel sauce (1 and 1/2 cup simmering milk whisked into a roux (2 tbsp butter & 2 tbsp. flour), slowly melted in 8 oz. of shredded Gruyere and finished with a pinch of Nutmeg, Salt & Pepper. I then lightly oiled the inside of two individual sized casseroles, tossed the macaroni with the cheese sauce and filled the dishes. I topped the dishes with a mixture of Bread Crumbs and fresh Thyme as well as a couple of small dollops of butter and baked in a 400° oven for 35-40 minutes (until the tops are golden brown). We enjoyed the mac and cheese with Collard Greens sauteed with onion, garlic and braised in chicken stock and cider vinegar.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Red Cabbage and Carrot Coleslaw with Dungeness Crab

This is simply a light coleslaw tossed with some precooked crab meat, halved Cherry tomatoes and some garlic fried plantains. I decided to toss this together when I came across some precooked Dungeness crab meat at the fish guy. I shredded about a quarter of a red cabbage, sliced half of an onion & made long "noodles" of carrot using my vegetable peeler. I folded these veggies together with about two tablespoons of fresh parsley, one tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of grainy mustard, the juice of half a lemon, salt & pepper. It is best to allow the slaw to rest at least an hour before tossing with the crab, tomatoes & plantains.
To make the garlic-fried plantains, roast some garlic cloves (still in its skin) in about three tablespoons of oil over high heat until browned on both sides. Remove the garlic & add one plantain diced into quarter-inch cubes. Cook until browned on all sides and drain on a paper towel.
Enjoy with a dry American Pale Ale like Bear Republic's XP Pale Ale.

Bear Republic XP Pale Ale

XP Pale Ale is Bear Republic's "Exceptional Pale Ale" which is to say American Pale Ale. This beer pours golden brown with a thin off-white head and has a sweet citrusy smell. Its flavor is clean and yeasty with a spicy, dry malt flavor and hints of hops. This clean dry beer would pair extremely well with spicy dishes or grilled fish, but would work with almost anything.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Café Matou

This past Friday, my wife decided to celebrate some gambling wins by treating us to a wonderful meal at one of my favorite local restaurants. Café Matou is located in Bucktown (just south of Western on Milwaukee) and has consistently delivered meals that exceed my expectations. Chef Socher changes his menu almost daily, based on what the seasons provide, updating French classics at a price quite below what one would expect at this quality level. On this evening I decided I wasn’t in the mood for wine so I selected a beer from the selection of Belgians available.

Poperings Hommel Ale is a Belgian IPA, it has hints of hops flavor, but is nowhere near as hoppy as American IPA’s. The flavor is slightly earthy, with a floral quality & bread-like flavors. There is a slight bitterness, but mostly this ale is more akin to a Belgian Blonde or a Triple. Hommel Ale is very crisp and easy to drink; it also has a complex character which worked quite well with both courses from this evening.
It was a slightly warm evening, so to start I selected the Chilled Celery Soup. This soup was served in a chilled bowl with a healthy dollop of crème fraiche. As one might expect the dominant flavor here was celery, but the soup had a rich creaminess and hinted at notes of onion and garlic – the crème fraiche gave a wonderful tanginess that complimented the crisp celery flavor quite well.

For the main course I chose the Roasted Halibut. This delicious fish was cooked to perfection – moist and flaky with a wonderful golden-brown crust, which lay atop a slightly acidic, light Sherry sauce. The earthy sweetness of the Roasted Halibut worked perfectly with the acidity of the sauce. Roasted Chanterelle mushrooms and white rice completed this plate - the Chanterelles were the highlight of the dish for me, they have a delicate yet spicy flavor that really brought out the delicate flavor of the halibut. Even the rice is worth mentioning in this meal. Now generally I am not a fan of white rice, the flavor tends to be close to nonexistent & it just seems boring to me, but this evening the rice was slightly nutty and delicate; I am not sure what Socher does, but I cleaned my plate.

This meal further cements Café Matou as one of the best places to dine in Chicago. They consistently deliver great meals at an affordable price point and maintain a great wine list as well as an interesting beer menu – with a focus on the Belgian persuasion. Try one of the monthly five course “flights to France” which pairs five different wines with dishes inspired by a specific region in France. They also prepare a beer pairing menu quarterly. I cannot recommend this place enough.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tomato and Basil Blossom Salad

The basil I have growing on my balcony began to flower and from what I understand if I allow this to continue the plant will focus its energy on these flowers instead of the leaves, so I removed all of the blossoms. I then tossed them with some fresh tomatoes, a little olive oil as well as some salt and pepper. We enjoyed this salad on grilled bread as a late afternoon snack and of course you could use basil leaves if you do not have access to the flowers.