Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ham and Swiss Sliders

I have a love hate relationship with sports.  You would too if your home town teams built you up and broke you down year after year.  So is the life of a Chicago sports fan.  All hail to the great Ditka, the last person who made everyone in this city hope and dream.  If he didn't do it, the Super Bowl Shuffle did.  To this day I remember the homecoming parade down Michigan Avenue for the Bears when they won in 1985.  I remember walking around my grade school surrounded by kids wearing Sweetness sweat bands and McMahon style sunglasses.          

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

News, Quirks, Insights, and Other Odds and Ends - January 2016

The Force is strong with this one.

Whenever I go overseas, inevitably someone will ask me where I am from, I will say Chicago and they will either say, Al Capone!" or "Michael Jordan!".  Al Capone is long gone but his legend refuses to die.  Good news for those curious people who want to see some of the gangster hangouts and speakeasies he frequented, Thrillist put together a map.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mashed Potato Fudge

The after holiday diet has obviously been put on hold.  Or you could just eat this and nothing else for the rest of the day.  Gasp!  Yes.  I had to!  It was a rough week.  Bowie died.  Let's Dance, Under Pressure, Fame, The Man Who Sold the get the idea, I am an 80's child and those were some of the best days of my childhood.  Then he married  Iman.  Oh my God!  Gorgeous couple and both so huge in the 80's.  Bowie dying is yet one more piece of my childhood that has gone away like Garbage Pal Kids, big hair, The Golden Girls, and shoulder pads.  My nostalgia runneth over.  

So, here is the recipe from Saveur for mashed potato fudge.  One modification I made was to mix the walnuts in with the fudge rather than sprinkle them on top.  Or you can go without any nuts at all.  Go crazy.  Oh, and yes, they were delicious.        

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Oh, the elusive quality baguette in this U.S. of A.  I have very strong feelings about this so please excuse me if this rant sounds harsh.  I love the U.S. and I know how fortunate I am to be born in a country that provides the multitude of opportunities and the feeling of security and freedom that so many other people around the world do not have.  Many amazing things have come from our shores from the assembly line to the iPhone.  

So, in this great country I ask you, why can we not find a decent baguette in any grocery store, corner market, or bakery?  Why?  WHY???  You can go to Paris and pick up a perfect baguette on almost any street corner like we can pick up a Big Mac on almost any corner in the U.S.  That is so sad.  P.S. That baguette will be warm 99% of the time no matter what time of day you buy it.  Morning, afternoon, night, it will be warm if not piping hot like it just came out of the oven.  Incredible.  Why doesn't Starbucks offer warm baguettes? They offer warm everything else.  Why have they not figured this out?  They are Starbucks!  They can do anything.  I would say the same about McDonald's but I'm too afraid that they would pump the baguette full of corn syrup and every other bad chemical on earth in order to make a profit.

So, given my above outlined baguette struggles (I know, I live a tough life), I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I had a little more sympathy and understanding for bakeries after my first attempt and complete failure at making my own baguettes.  Total disaster.  Then I came across the Cook's Illustrated latest recipe for making great baguettes and once again, they have provided us with the recipe to beat all recipes.  I had to add more flour (about 1/3 cup of unbleached white flour) to my batch than their recipe recommended because my dough was refusing to pull from the sides of the mixing bowl.  I would highly recommend watching the video that accompanies their recipe, it helps.  I watched that video a few times before I started mixing anything.  This recipe also takes a few days, much patience, and some special tools.  If you are as fanatical about baguettes as I am, this is all totally worth it.  Crunch on the outside and and warm bread with many holes on the inside.  They were as close to an authentic french baguette as I have ever tasted on American land.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Blini's with Caviar and Champagne

Blini's with Caviar
Happy New Year!  If I was a serious blogger, I would have had this post up pre New Year's but I was too busy drinking champagne.  That said, who says that blini's or caviar or champagne have to be for a special occasion?  I say, if your kids are not around, that is reason enough to celebrate.     

A note on the champagne.  My significant other likes to remind me that although Verve Clicquot is excellent and their marketing team has been brilliant, it is not the only fantastic champagne in circulation.  There are many other excellent choices.  Yum.  Also, bubbly is best with something salty.  One of my favorite champagne accompaniments is french fries.  Yes, french fries.  That or potato chips, the above salty caviar or smoked salmon, cheese straws, cheese get the picture.  If you can, make the appetizers yourself.  Everything tastes so much better when it is not bought pre-packaged from the middle aisles.  

The blini recipe is from Ina Garten and you can find it here.  I also used the crème fraîche and dill in her recipe but substituted caviar for the smoked salmon, which I was able to buy from Costco for a small fortune.    
Blini's with Caviar, Champagne and a Roaring Fire