Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How To: Real Chicago Hot Dogs

Still inspired by our recent weekend trip to Chicago (read about it HERE), we decided we wanted to attempt one of the city's specialties. Since I'm not one for Deep Dish Pizza (no offense, Chicagoans), Chicago Hot Dogs seemed like a great idea. For the uninitiated, Chicago Dogs are basically Hot Dogs drizzled with Yellow Mustard and then topped with pretty much everything but the kitchen sink

Sweet Pickle Relish                                
Thinly sliced Tomato Wedges (we used Campari Tomatoes)                 
Kosher Dill Pickle Spears (I sliced mine in half lengthwise)   
Chopped Sport Peppers (or Peperoncini)  *what are Sport Peppers? Click HERE
Chopped White Onion     

For the Dog - There is no question that your Hot Dog should be All Beef. I am generally not a huge Hot Dog person for reasons I won't delve into on a blog, so I opted for Organic Dogs from Applegate Farms. The preferred brand for a True Chi Town Dog is Chicago's own, Vienna Beef. Take a look at their website here - Vienna also offers many Authentic products for building the perfect Chicago approved Dog. 

There are many acceptable ways to cook your Hot Dogs. I opted for Steaming them in a a steamer basket over boiling water for 5 minutes. This method was recommended on a great blog called  The Paupered Chef. Their Chicago Hot Dog Post provided a wealth of information on the subject and some handy pictures too!   As a bonus, using a steamer set up is dually convenient because the Hot Dog Buns should also be steamed for a minute or two.  

For the Bun - The most authentic Chicago Dog will be served on a Poppy Seed Bun. Since I couldn't find them, we used regular White Bread Hot Dog Buns. Later, I found out that Martha Stewart, genius that she is, had thought of a way to improvise Poppy Seed Buns HERE.

A note about Mustard - Apparently, the is to be no messing around with the Mustard on a true Chicago Dog. Not only should Mustard be the only condiment besides Relish that you use, but it must indeed be plain old Yellow Mustard. None of that fancy Grain Mustard or Dijon business. Got it? 

And now for the HOW TO:
~Special thanks to Martha Stewart and The Paupered Chef for much of the information in this post. 

1. Cook your Hot Dogs the way you prefer. We steamed ours for five minutes in a steamer basket over boiling water. After removing the Hot Dogs, we then steamed our Buns another 1-2 minutes.

Steamer Basket for Hot Dogs and Buns, Photo: NK
2. Next, drizzle with Mustard and spread Relish alongside.

Photo: NK
3. Finish by topping with Chopped Onion, Sliced Peppers, Tomato Wedges, and nestling a Kosher Dill Spear alongside.

Finished Chicago Hot Dogs, Photo: NK

4. Get a big bunch of napkins and dig in! 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Italian Pasta Classics - Pappardelle alla Boscaiola

Welcome to Neurotic Kitchen's newest feature - Italian Pasta Classics. Since we've shared quite a few of my favorite Traditional Pasta recipes, why not make it a regular thing?  A few examples -

Spaghetti all'Arrabiata

Pasta with Cauliflower

Aglio Olio e Peperoncino

and last but not least, my favorite,

Linguine & White Clam Sauce.

(For the entire NK Pasta Collection, check out our Recipe Index HERE.)

Today, I'd like to spotlight a really wonderful dish that I believe doesn't get nearly enough buzz - 

Pasta Boscaiola.

Boscaiola means "in the style of the Woodsman," There are many ways to make Boscaiola, and the traditional components are often disputed. There is, however, one key, non-negotiable ingredient in Boscaiola that everyone agrees on, and it is the one that best conjures the woodsy feeling of this dish, one of my all time favorite vegetables, Mushrooms. 

Italian Parsley and Mushrooms, Photo: NK
Generally, Boscaiola also includes Tomatoes. Some folks make it with a bit of Pancetta and even Peas. As you might imagine, this method is also very delicious. Still others insist that no Tomato should be involved whatsoever, and instead call for only a touch of Cream to tie the Mushroom and Pancetta together in a sauce. If you are looking for a richer and more stick-to-your-ribs dish, this variation is  great  as well - especially during the chill of winter.  

In contrast, our Boscaiola is somewhat purist in its simplicity; 

it's made using only Tomatoes, Parsley, Garlic, White Wine, Mushrooms and Pasta - which means it's also Meatless Monday ready. As is our custom at Neurotic Kitchen, our Boscaiola is relatively fast and very easy. Since I could write a whole post on my boundless obsession with Mushrooms, you can bet that our sauce will feature a very, shall we say, "healthy" helping of them. 

A few things to note before you begin:

Seasoning is very important to this dish. And by seasoning I mean Salt and Black Pepper, not necessarily a lot, but do taste the sauce to make sure the end result is well flavored. A bit of Salt is important to make sure the Mushroom flavor pops. I add Crushed Red Pepper during the cooking process. What can I say, it's my favorite and I do think a hint of spice adds something.  

Pasta Choice:
For our Pasta, we chose Pappardelle, a wide, flat shaped noodle, but Boscaiola lends itself well to twisty pasta shapes such as Fusilli or Campanelle. Cavatelli or Stozzapretti are also good choices.  

Porcini Mushrooms are a customary part of most Boscaiola sauces. Buy them dried and reconstitute them in water for ten minutes before cooking. Porcini have a strong flavor so you only need an ounce or so of them in your Mushroom Mix. They are expensive though, and while they add deep flavor, your Boscaiola will still be quite tasty without them. I didn't happen to have Porcini on hand in the making of today's dish, but you could absolutely throw in an ounce or two to your Mushroom mix if you so choose. 

As far as the other Mushrooms, you'll be most pleased if you choose a mix of the wild varieties, or at least those types that are considered a step above regular White Button Mushrooms. These include: Oyster Mushrooms, Hen of the Woods (aka Maitake) Mushrooms, Chanterelles (also pricey), Shitake, Portabella, or Cremini. Any mix you are partial to will do. I like to have a variety of different shapes and chop the Mushrooms thickly so that you get nice meaty bites of each kind. 

Remember that Mushrooms shrink significantly when they cook.Since we are using  a whole pound in our dish, the amount may seem alarming at first, but they do cook down quite a bit. Either way, serve this wonderful dish to people who love Mushrooms and you'll have no problems. 

Pappardelle alla Boscaiola
Serves 3 as an entree   

1 Pound Mixed Fancy Mushrooms (we used Maitake, Oyster, Shitake and Cremini*)
14.5 Ounce Can of Diced Tomatoes, preferably organic (we like Muir Glen brand)
1/2 Cup White Wine (we used Pinot Grigio)
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
5 Whole Garlic Cloves
1/2 Cup finely chopped Italian Parsley 
3/4 Pound Pappardelle or other Pasta (corkscrew varieties work especially well too)
Salt and Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
Grated Parmigiana Cheese - optional 

* There are a few great "Fancy Mushroom Blends" available at supermarkets that package several varieties of Mushroom in one. 

1. Set a pot of well-Salted water to boil for the Pasta. 
Photo: NK
Meanwhile, In a large skillet, heat the Olive Oil and Garlic Cloves over Medium Heat until Garlic begins to get slightly golden but not burnt. 

2. Add the canned Tomatoes, a few shakes of Salt, and about 5 turns of Freshly Ground Black Pepper. Add the White Wine and stir. Allow the mixture to cook for about 5 minutes until the liquids evaporate a bit. Now add the Mushrooms and Crushed Red Pepper. 

3. Allow to cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When finished, pick out the Garlic Cloves and discard. Stir in the Parsley and taste for seasoning, adding extra Salt and Pepper if desired.  

4. Once water is boiling, cook Pasta as directed. Drain and set aside until sauce is done, reserving some Pasta Water to loosen the noodles if they stick. Plate Pasta with the Boscaiola Sauce and garnish with Parsley Sprigs and an optional sprinkle of Parmigiana Cheese. 
Buon Appetito! 

Pappardelle alla Boscaiola, Photo: NK 

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Kind of Town - Chicago Culinary Highlights

Chicago's Navy Pier, Photo: NK
This past weekend a family wedding brought us to Chicago for the second time in as many years. Now I'm not easy to impress, but I really like this town. 

Chicago's amazing architecture and dramatic lakeside setting are pretty breathtaking, and on both visits, I was surprised by how much this hard-nosed New Yorker enjoyed that fabled Midwestern charm from the locals. 

Our trip was both busy and fun. First, we attended our cousin's very lovely wedding, after which we were lucky enough to have some time to link up with two sets of friends from town.

From the wedding cocktail hour - where the most adorable Mini Mac 'n Cheeses were served -
Creative Cocktail Mac 'n Cheese, Photo:NK


to an uber-popular local restaurant's house made made Pork Rinds, 

My Main Squeeze and NK's resident Pork Connoisseur, Photo: NK


 we made sure to eat our way 
 through the Windy City 

  but good. 

In particular, we visited two really good restaurants that I'd like to tell you about.
Oh, and at least one bar. There's always a bar.  


Meal: Brunch
Cuisine: New American/ Gastropub Fare 
Location: Chicago's Meatpacking District (apparently they have one too!)  
What we ate: Let me preface this by saying there were four of us :)
1/2 Dozen Oysters - all different varieties!
Side of Ramp Hash Browns
Pretzel with Pimiento Cheese
Smoked Arctic Char with Feta Yogurt
Pork Schnitzel
Soft Shell Crab Sandwich
Several Fantastic Bloody Mary's + Beer Backs and a side of Pork Rinds

Overall Thoughts: The Publican is super popular for a reason. It's pretty delicious and the menu is definitely appealing to the tasteful omnivore. Try an exceptionally flavorful Bloody Mary with a Beer Back ( a complimentary beer pairing that comes with the drink - I learned this is a midwestern thing- good idea guys, good idea). Pork Rinds were a fun novelty, and Publican's Oysters on the half shell were super fresh. All of our entrees were great and really well executed, and the atmosphere is boisterous and fun.
Reservations recommended. 

Special thanks to Marina and David for showing us a great time! 

*On the remote chance you are still hungry, you can visit Publican Quality Meats, an upscale butcher right next door that offers a cafe too. Both places were good enough for Bourdain, so of course, they're good enough for me - check out clips of Tony's visit to the Publican locations HERE.

Next up, our second set of amazing foodie friends took us out that same evening to a great place called:

Meal: Dinner
Cuisine: Farm to Table/American
Location: Bucktown

What we ate: Again, we were a party of four - which was handy because The Bristol's menu is best enjoyed family style. Happily, the portions are neither overly priced or unmanageably huge as can sometimes be the case with this dining format. Since I love variety, it was fun to order several starters and entrees and share them all. Note that their menu changes frequently, but here goes:

Apple Salad with Manchego and Hazelnuts
Head-on Prawns a la Plancha
Pork Loin Tonnato
Duck Fat Fries with Garlic Aioli
Raviolo with Ricotta, Egg Yolk and Brown Butter
Cavatelli Bolognese
Roasted Half Chicken with Dill Spaetzle
Pork Porterhouse with Dried Cherry and Guanciale
Basque Cake 

Overall Thoughts: The folks at The Bristol mix a really good drink and offer a variety of creative cocktails. They're the perfect thing to wet your appetite for some wonderful food. There was no dish that I didn't enjoy, but the Chicken did not quite live up to the waiter's hype. The Duck Fat Fries were insanely good. The Giant Raviolo with a runny egg inside was yummy and rich. The waiter recommended we order their famous Monkey Bread to sop of the Egg (this was a *brilliant* idea). The Bristol's food is visually beautiful.The Pork Loin Tonnato starter, Cavatelli Bolognese, and the Pork Porterhouse were standouts for me. Delicious, delicious. Now, I would have liked to have taken more pictures of our dishes but the place is cozy and moodily lit. I didn't want to be "that guy" with the obnoxious flash. The staff is extremely attentive and knowledgeable. In contrast to the folks at Publican (where there's a touch of the toocoolforschool/blase/hipster vibe), they are also exceptionally warm and friendly.  To finish, we ordered the Basque Cake on the server's recommendation. I have to say, it was one of the richest and most satisfyingly delicious desserts I've had in a long time. Imagine a light and fluffy pound cake that's been soaked in buttery goodness, and I mean that in the best possible way. One of these cakes was plenty of dessert for four. We had a great meal and enjoyed wonderful company all day. 

Finally, an honorable mention goes to a new-ish Small Plates Lunch + Dinner locale where we cooled our heels and enjoyed some well-crafted cocktails pre-dinner. The Red Door in Bucktown has been open just over a year and it's adorable. Though I can't vouch for the food as we only had drinks there, we all enjoyed several very good cocktails and a comprehensive beer and wine selection. The bar area was friendly and welcoming, and the dark wooded, edison-bulbed ambiance was enhanced by a friendly mixologist who chatted us up.

Photo by Tommie Nguyen courtesy of The Red Door
Check the place out if you're in the nabe!

This concludes our Culinary recap of Chi-Town. Special thanks to our foodie friends and family for a great, Windy City weekend. Tune in next week for a Chicago-inspired recipe - can you guess which classic we'll be cooking up?
Until next time!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lightened Up Fish & Chips - Potato Chip Crusted Cod + Malt Vinegar Reduction

Fish and Chips with Malt Vinegar is a classic dish best known for its popularity in the British Isles. Its timeless appeal is not accidental.  A nice, firm White Fish (typically Cod or Haddock) enrobed in crispy deep fried batter usually sounds pretty good to me. Of course, Fish and Chips is hardly a figure-friendly dish, but is there a way to make it a bit less rich? Turns out that Salt and Vinegar Chips (the ONLY Chip flavor as far as I'm concerned) are the key to satisfying your Fish and Chips craving without a deep-fryer. The second key is of course not to eat the remainder of the bag - but they are so tempting! 

Salt and Vinegar Potato Chip Crusted "Fish & Chips" with Lemon Parsley Potatoes and Malt Vinegar Reduction
Photo: NK 

To guard against this inevitability I bought two single-serve bags of Salt and Vinegar Chips. We all know I have zero self-control and the two bags contained just the right amount for this recipe's crispy Crust. Depending on how coated you'd like your Fillets, you can even use less crumb topping. 

Since the "Chips" in classic Fish and Chips are really just the British way of referring to French Fries, today's answer to this component of the meal will instead be fast-cooking Fingerling Potatoes brightened up by Lemon Zest, Parsley and tossed in only a small amount of Oil. They might not be real "Chips" but they are pretty tasty and definitely easy so we're invoking some creative license here. Finally, to tie everything together, Classic Malt Vinegar gets an update by being reduced down to a syrupy drizzle. The Vinegar Reduction can be made even a few days ahead and the Potatoes are cooked quickly, just before the fish - believe it or not, even without advanced preparation you can have this dish ready in just about 45 minutes to 1 hour. We hope you enjoy our slightly lighter update of a classic guilty pleasure.

Timing this Recipe & Order of Preparation:

Start to finish, you can prep and cook this dish and all its accompaniments in 45 min to 1 hour. Cook time is only about 35 minutes total for Potato Side Dish and Fish. Malt Vinegar Reduction can be made in advance or as the oven preheats (it takes 10 minutes or so) - Here's how and when to do it all:

Prep and chop all ingredients for the Potatoes. 

Make the Malt Vinegar Reduction ahead if you have time, or make it while the oven is preheating for the Potatoes (500 degrees).

Make the Potatoes. Prep all Fish Ingredients while Potatoes cook. When Potatoes are finished, lower oven to 400 degrees for the Fish and set the Potatoes aside. They can be served at room temperature or reheated one or two minutes before Fish is done. In fact you could pop them back in the oven for the last minute or two that the Fish cooks. 

Make the Fish and finish it a minute or two under the Broiler to achieve a nice golden brown crust. Serve with a drizzle of Malt Vinegar Reduction on the Fish and extra on the side. Enjoy!  

Salt and Vinegar Potato Chip Crusted Cod & Potatoes with Malt Vinegar Reduction
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 2 

2 - 6 to 8 Ounce Cod Fillets

Salt and Pepper

1 Recipe Lemon Parsley Fingerling Potatoes* (recipe follows)
1 Recipe Malt Vinegar Reduction* (recipe follows)
About 2 Cups of Salt and Vinegar Flavored Kettle Chips
1/4 teaspoon Hot Smoked Spanish Paprika or Regular Paprika
2 heaping teaspoons Light or Fat Free Mayonnaise
Parchment Paper

Make the Malt Vinegar Reduction. (Can be done a day or two in advance if you like)
Make the Lemon Parsley Fingerling Potatoes. Both recipes are below.

For the Fish, Preheat oven to 400.
Crush Potato Chips into fine crumbs by placing them in a plastic bag and smacking them with a blunt object. Sprinkle Paprika into the Potato Chip Crumbs and combine. 

Place Cod Fillets on a piece of Parchment in a Baking Dish.

Season Cod Fillets lightly with a pinch of Salt and some Pepper

Evenly spread 1 teaspoon or so of Light Mayonnaise evenly over each Cod Fillet.
Preparing the Cod, Photo: NK

Gently press Potato Chip Crumbs all over each Fillet, covering the top of them completely.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until somewhat firm and opaque. 

Turn on Broiler and finish the Fish for 1.5 minutes under the Broiler to brown the crust. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Fish is done when it is easily flaked off with a fork. 

Serve immediately with Fingerling Potatoes on the side and a drizzle of Malt Vinegar Reduction over the Fish. Serve extra Malt Vinegar Reduction on the side as well. 

Malt Vinegar Reduction
Makes enough for at least 6 Servings of Fish 
(Keeps in the fridge for a few days and can be made a day or more in advance)

1 teaspoon White Sugar
3/4 Cup Malt Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Beer (Optional)

In a small pot, bring ingredients to a gentle boil. Allow to boil slowly, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about a third of the volume. Once reduced, the liquid should become very syrup and spoon should be coated. This will take about 8-10 minutes. Be sure to watch the Vinegar cook the whole time. It's easy to go from syrup to shellac and totally ruin your vinegar and pan. Once desired consistency is achieved, set aside Vinegar Reduction in a heatproof vessel to cool. 

Lemon Parsley Fingerling Potatoes
Lemon Parsley Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Photo:NK
Serves 2-3

1 Pound Fingerling Potatoes
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
1/4 finely chopped Italian Parsley
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest

Preheat oven to 500. 

Toss Potatoes in Oil and place in a baking pan.

Sprinkle with Kosher Salt and Pepper. 

Bake for 22 minutes until tender and golden, shaking the pan once in a while to rotate Potatoes. 

When cooked, toss in the Lemon Zest and Parsley. These can be served at room temperature or rewarmed slightly for a minute or two when ready to serve. 


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Test Kitchen - New York Times Trini-Chinese Chicken

In Today's post, we'll be sharing the results of a recipe we've been dying to try after reading about it a New York Times Magazine article titled "East Meets West Indies."

Trini-Chinese Chicken, Photo: NK

Here is Sam Sifton's description of this very delicious dish:

"Chinese-style chicken is a dish you can find all over Trinidad and within the diaspora that has followed the nation’s emergence from British rule. The skin is fried into a lacquered mahogany. The meat beneath it tastes of five-spice, ginger and soy and is generally accompanied by a hum of oyster sauce mixed with the zing of the pickled Scotch-bonnet-pepper sauce that is seemingly omnipresent on the island’s tables."
- New York Times Magazine

As Sifton points out, Trini-Chinese Chicken is really a fusion recipe with flavor influences that come from Trinidad's Chinese population of indentured servants in the 19th Century.

A few things to note should you decide to try Trini-Chinese Chicken:

Unless you have an amazing frying setup - a deep fryer or those clever little screens that prevent oil spatter - there will be a mess in your kitchen. Achieving that mahogany color that Sifton mentions takes some doing - and by doing I mean very hot oil.

Our cooking took just over 20 minutes. I'd say 23. We had some particularly plump Drums and Thighs. I didn't use Wings because I never find them that meaty. Overall, I would recommend testing one of the larger Chicken pieces about 18 minutes in. Some of the smaller pieces may be done before the others, so you can also feel free to remove them once they are no longer pink in the middle and their juices run clear when pierced. 

I would say that this is a great dish to serve for company were it not for the fact that my kitchen became an unholy mess during its making. Also, I had to make a point of keeping a safe distance from the pan since oil spatter was a problem. It may make sense to split the Chicken into two very deep pans to minimize this issue. 

Was it all worth it? Surely. 

The Results:  After not much deliberation, our verdict was that this dish was extremely tasty and definitely worth making again and again. Predictably, my husband and I gobbled this Chicken up with reckless abandon. I even enjoyed the leftovers twice and they heated up nicely in the microwave. As far as presentation, it's a winner that looks dramatic and mouthwatering on a large platter. Use garnishes to add color (we chose Cilantro and the recommended sliced Scallions) and serve with extra sauce on the side and extra Matouk's Hot Sauce if you are, like me, a shameless spice hound. 
Trini-Chinese Chicken

From the New York Times
Serves 4 to 6 



8 to 10 Chicken Thighs, Legs and Wings, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds total (we omitted wings) 


2 Tablespoons Five-Spice Powder  


3 Limes 

3 Tablespoons soy sauce 

1 2-inch knob Ginger Root, peeled and minced (we used 2 teaspoons Dried Ginger) 

1/2 cup neutral oil, like Canola or Grapeseed 

2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil 

1/2 Cup Oyster Sauce 

1 to 3 Tablespoons Scotch-bonnet-pepper sauce, ideally Matouk’s Soca, to taste

Freshly ground Black Pepper 

1/4 Cup chopped Scallions, for garnish

Cilantro, for another optional garnish


In a large, nonreactive bowl, toss the chicken with five-spice powder, then with the juice of 2 of the limes, the soy sauce and the ginger. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours.

Heat oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. There should be at least 1/4 inch of oil in the pan. When the oil is hot, remove chicken from marinade, allowing excess marinade to drip back into the bowl, and fry, in batches if necessary to not crowd the pan, turning the pieces frequently, until well browned and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Combine oyster sauce, a tablespoon of the Scotch-bonnet-pepper sauce and the juice of the remaining lime and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings with more hot sauce, lime juice and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Garnish with scallions and serve with white or fried rice, with a drizzle of the sauce over each piece of chicken and the remaining sauce on the side.