Husband and I had a delightful weekend in the city these last few days, enjoying each others' company and indulging ourselves in the finest food and drink our stomachs could handle. On the list:
Graham Elliot's Grahamwich--what a sandwich shop should be. (And also a bunch of employees wearing herringbone paperboy hats and brown Converse shoes.)
Paul Kahan's Blackbird--modern and minimal with delicious cocktails and even more delicious-looking food.
Paul Kahan's neighboring avec--the best little wooden box of a restaurant I've ever been to. Full of communal tables and 250ml servings of wine, you feel like you've just stepped into Europe. I also might live inside their bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates, if given the chance.
If you live in Chicago and you haven't tried these restaurants, you are seriously doing yourself a disservice.
The night before we kicked off all of this culinary exploration, we also had a little adventure of our own:
"This is the best idea we've EVER had." Quoting dear Husband after eating only the crunchiest, flakiest, most irresistible egg rolls known to mankind.
(Ok that was really over the top.)
But seriously, these things were insanely good. We had never fried anything before, and I'm sure after this adventure we will be frying many other delicious items in the future. We also tried making a soy dipping sauce, which was tasty but not my favorite. I liked the rolls dipped in the sauce and then a little honey. For my sweet tooth, of course.
These would make an excellent appetizer and could probably be made mostly ahead.
4 egg roll wraps
1/4 tsp minced ginger
1/2 cup cabbage, finely chopped
1 ounce bean sprouts (a small handful)
1/4 cup carrot, julienned
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fish or oyster sauce
Cook cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, and green onions in a small skillet for about 2 minutes. Stir in fish sauce and let the mixture cool.
Place 2 tablespoons of the mixture diagonally on each wrap. Fold the bottom corner over the filling and roll it snugly half-way to cover the filling. Fold in both sides tightly and moisten the edges with water to stick them down. Roll wrap up and seal the last corner with water.
In a large skillet or stock pot, heat oil to 350 degrees (we used our candy thermometer to test the temp) and place the rolls flap-side down into the oil, two at a time. Turn occasionally until golden, about 2 or 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Soy Dipping Sauce
from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
1/4 cup less-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/8 cup minced green onion
Whisk all ingredients together until sugar is dissolved. Serve and enjoy!
If that wasn't enough, we had to continue our adventure with the main course--Pad Thai. I have to preface this recipe by saying that although it was quite good, I think it still needs some tweaking. It doesn't have that Thai restaurant flavor, which it doesn't necessarily need, but it does need a bit more of something. I just can't seem to put my finger on it. If you make this and figure it out, please let us know. We are Thai obsessed.
Don't be fooled, this is still a great dinner. See for yourself!
by Mark Bittman
12 ounces dried flat rice noodles, 1/4-inch thick
5 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed (which we used)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces chicken, sliced thinly
2 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and trimmed
2 tbsp thai fish sauce
2 tsp tamarind paste or ketchup
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (over my dead body)
2 small fresh green chiles, seeded and sliced (couldn't find Thai chiles, used Serrano)
1 lime, cut into wedges
Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soften for at least 15 minutes, or until they are your desired consistency. If they start to get soft before you are ready to use them in the last step, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into your largest skillet over medium heat. Once it's hot, add the eggs and spread them around the pan to try and cook them as thinly as possible. You're looking for a crepe-like egg pancake. Cook until set and transfer the crepe to a cutting board. Cut into 1/4-inch strips.
Turn heat to high and add the rest of the oil. When heated, add garlic and chicken and cook until chicken is done. Remove the chicken from the pan, leaving the garlic and oil. Add green onions and half of the bean sprouts to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the pan and add to the chicken.
Put the drained noodles, egg, fish sauce, tamarind paste, and sugar in the skillet and stir together until hot. Toss in the chicken and vegetables and transfer to a (massive) serving platter. Sprinkle with peanuts, chiles, bean sprouts, cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.
Makes 4 servings
(Yikes, our dishes...)