Black Bean and Smoked Pork Soup

Soup's on

[Update 3/4/2012 I submitted this recipe to SoupaPalooza.  Hope it gets noticed! Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAid, Red Star Yeast and Le Creuset]

One of the many things I love about Chicago are the butcher shops.  Being a realtor is great for roaming around to different neighborhood butchers and figuring which ones have your favorite bacon, lamb, steaks, and prices.  I always pick up a smoked pork hock (or two) for soups and stews, especially when winter sets in.  My go-to soup when it’s cold and rainy (like today) is a bean and pork one.  It’s hearty and perfect for a cold damp day (we never have those in Chicago).  I’ll make a couple different variations of this throughout the winter using different beans, different vegetables, pasta, etc.  It’s a very versatile recipe.  For example, throw some stale bread and kale in and turn it into a ribolitta.   Continue reading “Black Bean and Smoked Pork Soup”

What’s for Sunday Dinner – Bourdain’s Boeuf Bourguignon

As the colder weather starts setting in here in Wrigleyville my thoughts and ideas on dinner turn towards braised dishes, roasts, soups, and stews.  I enjoy grilling in the summertime but fall and winter are great times to cook.  The kitchen is always warm and cozy, the house is filled with delicious aromas, and you get great leftovers that sometimes taste even better the next day.  This is one of those dinners.

Please please please let there be leftovers.

It’s simple, has just a few ingredients, and is easy to add your own touches to.  I rely on Anthony Bourdain and his Les Halles Cookbook for the recipe on this one.  I own a bunch of cookbooks but there are certain ones I definitely use more than others and Bourdain’s falls into the “heavier use” pile.  The recipes aren’t overly intricate or too heavy on technique and you’ll find yourself easily incorporating them into your repertoire.Continue reading “What’s for Sunday Dinner – Bourdain’s Boeuf Bourguignon”

Kitchen Essentials – Truffle Salt

Every home cook and professional chef has their own favorite ingredient, spice, seasoning, etc.  For me the one must have ingredient I always make sure is in the cupboard is truffle salt.  It’s great with anything on eggs, meats, in sauces, on popcorn, with potatoes, risotto, macaroni and cheese, and pasta.  You’d be hard pressed to find something it would add some depth to.  I find it adds an extra layer of flavor that mingles in with the salt.  Two seasonings in one!  Forget garlic mashed potatoes.  Season your potatoes with some truffle salt and you’ll never go back.  Scrambled eggs and omelets never tasted better.  Mix it in some butter and put some on your steak while it’s resting.  Throw it on some chicken or in the sauce/gravy you’re making from the pan drippings (you do that with your chicken right? make a quick gravy while it’s resting?  who am I kidding, of course you do).

Oh so good in everything!

Now the reason truffle salt is my favorite secret seasoning is because I love truffles.  Continue reading “Kitchen Essentials – Truffle Salt”

Top Chef is Back!

I’m a huge fan of Top Chef and am always excited for the start of new seasons.  It’s come a long way since the beginning and the quality of contestants has just gotten better and better.  Personally I think the Vegas one had the toughest cast of chefs.  I’m not including the All-Star one since all of those chefs had been on before and pretty much knew what to expect.  It’s a great competition which for the most part is all about the food.  Cook poorly one time and you can go home.  Cheryl’s become a fan of it too which is good and bad.  Good that she wants to watch it but bad because now I get “can you make that for me?”  Spoilers ahead.Continue reading “Top Chef is Back!”

The Eater 38 Club

A couple of weeks ago Cheryl (a.k.a. Mrs. G-Gnome, her scientific code name) mentioned one of her co-workers came up with an idea of using the Chicago Eater’sEater 38” list of restaurants to explore some new places.  Sounded like a good idea, restaurants are added and dropped when the list is updated every few months so you can never really finish it.  First stop for the “Eater 38 Club” was Anteprima in Andersonville.  Delicious Italian food, cozy space, and the prix fixe menu (available from Sunday through Thursday) is great deal.  For $30 you get to choose three items from the menu such as starter, entrée, dessert; or starter, pasta, entrée.  And you weren’t limited to the main menu.  All of the nightly specials were options as well.  I like this a lot.  You can get an appetizer AND your pasta course!Continue reading “The Eater 38 Club”

What’s for Sunday Dinner

While trying to figure out what to do for Sunday dinner I looked through a copy of my mother’s recipe books and found one for pork tenderloin with a mustard/port cream sauce.  Didn’t have any tenderloins but I did have a 2-1/2 lb chunk of pork loin in the freezer.  So I improvised.  The original recipe called for roasting until the internal temp hit 155°F.  Must have been an old recipe from some magazine when everyone overcooked pork beyond recognition where you needed a thick juicy sauce to moisturize the meat.  I adjusted the temp down to reflect modern times where pinkish pork doesn’t scare us as much as it used to.  Sunday dinner tonight was: mustard crusted pork loin with braised brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes.

Mustard Crusted Pork Loin with Port Wine Cream Sauce

  • 2-3 lb pork loin
  • ½ C Dijon mustard
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • ½ C minced shallots
  • ¾ C port
  • ½ C heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 450°F.  Season pork loin with salt and pepper, then coat with mustard. Dredge mustard coated loin in flour.

On med-high heat stove burner, heat oil with 2 Tbs of butter in an ovenproof sauté/braising pan.  Sear the pork loin on all sides until a golden crust forms.  Place in oven and roast until cooking thermometer reads between 135-140°F.

Remove loin from pan and let rest 10-15 mins.  Place pan back on med-high heat stove burner, add 1 Tbs butter and brown shallots.  Add port wine and simmer, reducing by half.  Whisk in cream and remaining butter.

Slice loin, pour sauce over pork, and serve.

Buon appetito!

Welcome to my blog!  To paraphrase Cracker, what the world needs now…is another…blog about food!

Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about cooking at home and finding great food in my travels, whether it’s here in Chicago or while traveling with Mrs. GastroGnome (she really likes the cooking at home part).  So check back here for stories and posts on home cooking, travels, and some restaurant reviews.

Gotta run for now, the oven timer just went off which means it’s time to put the bread in. Ciao!