Thurk Underground

The broth was this good!

Always on the mission for flavor combinations that I’ve never tasted, plating I’ve never seen, and ingredients I’ve never experienced, I typically don’t seek out simple food unless it’s a perfect baguette, good butter, or something of the like. However, I’m beginning to understand that I totally missed the point of what simple can be.

I met Chef Justin Behlke of Thurk through my friend, Melissa. They met on LTH forum where she offered to host one of his Underground meals at her place. He previously staged at Noma and wanted to bring simple, focused food to Chicago without all the drama of kitchen hierarchy. And so Thurk was born. After speaking to Justin, his passion and drive captured me.

Below are images from my most recent dinner a few weeks ago. Still amazed how complex everything tasted, yet how simple the ingredients were. Flakes of Alaskan maldon salt popping through the soft texture of freshly made cheese make my tastebuds squeal. Light pops of vinegar carrots cutting through the pan-fried pig face and warm pork broth caused me to close my eyes and wish the moment would never end. These pops of surprise tell me that simple can be complex with the right chef behind the plate

And let’s be honest — this is as close to Noma I am going to get for a while.

Letherbee gin and Q tonic with thyme

Letherbee gin and Q tonic with thyme

Fresh cheese, honey, and thyme

Fresh cheese, honey, and thyme

Smoked trout pie

Smoked trout pie

Cured pork belly with lacto-fermented carrot

Cured pork belly with lacto-fermented carrot

Homemade sourdough bread and homemade butter

Homemade sourdough bread and homemade butter

Young kraut, egg yolk, basil (before the mushroom tea)

Young kraut, egg yolk, basil (before the mushroom tea)

Mushroom tea pouring over the kraut and egg yolk

Mushroom tea pouring over the kraut and egg yolk

Roasted beets, smoked sour cream, and leek ash

Roasted beets, smoked sour cream, and leek ash

Cheese dumplings with root vegetables

Cheese dumplings with root vegetables

Pig's head, grated carrot (before pork broth)

Pig’s head, grated carrot (before pork broth)

Chef Justin Behlke pouring pork broth

Chef Justin Behlke pouring pork broth

Pork broth

Pork broth

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Pork chop with brown butter, kale chips, and beer shallots

Pork chop with brown butter, kale chips, and beer shallots

Squash butter and milk sorbet

Squash butter and milk sorbet

Beer marshmallows, burnt honey candy, and biscuit cookie with tomato jam

Beer marshmallows, burnt honey candy, and biscuit cookie with tomato jam

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Cured Egg Yolk

I recently learned of another fun trick with eggs!  At a recent Thurk dinner, Chef Justin Behlke strolled past each diner shaving what he referred to as cured egg yolk while he explained the dish.  This definitely piqued my interest and I cached it away as something that would require further research!

The proof of concept seemed easy enough so I grabbed the last egg in the fridge and buried it in the curing mixture to see what would happen.  I decided to start with a basic 50/50 mix of sugar and salt and added a bit of Herbs de Provence to see if it would pick up much flavor.  The “biggest” challenge is making sure the yolk doesn’t break!

After a 1 day cure and a two-week aging, the flavor seemed comparable to parmesan cheese, adding a salty richness.  My first pairing was with bone marrow, daikon, and leek which didn’t look quite as pretty as I envisioned, but it added an extra depth of flavor to the already rich marrow.

I’m curious now how different aging times will impact the flavor.  Hmmmm, I think I have a fresh dozen in the refrigerator… stay tuned…

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Place whole raw egg yolk into a 50/50 mixture of salt and sugar. I added herbs de provence for extra flavor.

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Cure the egg yolk for 24 hours in this mixture

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Remove salt from cured egg yolk, place in cheesecloth and hang in the back of your fridge for 1 week.

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Use a microplane to shave the cured egg yolk onto your dish

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One egg yolk produces a lot of shavings!

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We shaved ours onto bone marrow with roasted daikon and leeks. Not the prettiest, but delicious!

Sous Rising Guesterant

I started exploring Underground dinners a year ago and haven’t looked back. Creative and exciting food, fascinating dinner participants, and the warm welcoming into these chef’s homes really make it a unique experience every time.

My favorite Underground, One Sister, became Elizabeth restaurant so I sought out to get my fix elsewhere. I recently ate at Thurk Underground (post coming soon) and last night dined at Sous Rising Guesterant with Chef Jake Bickelhaupt (veteran of Alinea, Schwa, and Charlie Trotter’s). He and his wife, Alexa, host the dinners in their place in Uptown. An open kitchen leading into the dining area allowed us to see Jake plate as well as converse with him and give feedback throughout the night. Alexa did an amazing job making us feel right at home, pouring our wine and helping serve.

We booked out the entire table of 8 with our Supper Club so we didn’t have the pleasure of meeting anyone new, but Jake and Alexa genuinely seemed excited to have us. Jake’s take on American cuisine combined molecular techniques — where needed — for surprise. The flavors were inventive and bright. Execution was perfect and the presentation — stunning. I’m looking forward to seeing Jake obtain his goal of opening a small BYO restaurant and dining with him again!

**I forgot my camera at home so these photos are all taken with my camera phone. For better pictures, visit: http://www.sousrisingchicago.com/gallery.html taken by Huge Galdones.

Trout Roe: coconut cream, white chocolate, pink peppercorn, pineapple

Trout Roe: coconut cream, white chocolate, pink peppercorn, pineapple

Kiwano: gin, horned melon, rosewater, hibiscus

Kiwano: gin, horned melon, rosewater, hibiscus

Soup: fingerling potato chips, pea, milk, tomato, tendril

Soup: fingerling potato chips, pea, milk, tomato, tendril

Salad: Spanish octopus, avocado, finger lime, coconut, coast of Maine kelp

Salad: Spanish octopus, avocado, finger lime, coconut, coast of Maine kelp

Winter corn: yolk, fermented black bean, Murray River salt

Winter corn: yolk, fermented black bean, Murray River salt

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Kampachi: Sake cure, pomelo, carob, banana, tapioca pearls

Gnocchi: hedgehog mushroom, black truffle, broccolini, pecorino

Gnocchi: hedgehog mushroom, black truffle, broccolini, pecorino

Palate cleanser

Palate cleanser

Black Pig: Kurobuta, Okinawan, chestnut, tamarind

Black Pig: Kurobuta, Okinawan, chestnut, tamarind

Uni: maitake, Asian crouton, black garlic, burdock root, kumquat

Uni: maitake, Asian crouton, black garlic, burdock root, kumquat

Beef: mango, aged soy, nori, yuzu kosho

Beef: mango, aged soy, nori, yuzu kosho

Tart: Calamansi

Tart: Calamansi

Sweet: Shortbread, root beer, prune, orange, vanilla, honey

Sweet: Shortbread, root beer, prune, orange, vanilla, honey

Caffeine: espuma, coffeeweed, cardamom

Caffeine: espuma, coffeeweed, cardamom

Spring Menu at One Sister Underground, Hello Elizabeth Restaurant

 

“I came up with this dish because I thought this is what a gnome would serve me if I was invited over to his house” is how Chef Iliana Regan of One Sister Inc. described the first of 25 courses served at her home.

And so the progression of whimsical genius and curiosity begins to show through each of Iliana’s dishes.  Rarely has a tasting menu felt so cohesive.  25 courses, each seamlessly blending avant-garde/modernist techniques with mostly midwest/seasonal ingredients, many of which were foraged or grown by Iliana herself. Each ingredient on the plate serves a purpose while pops of flavor come through when you least expect it.  Even the crowd pleaser course (whipped bacon fat, anyone?!!!) was so well rounded I was left craving a second beet marshmallow.

It is amazing how many of the dishes have been stuck in my head like a great song.  Many of the flavor combinations were unusual — combinations that proved impossible to “taste” in my mind.  Iliana’s skill in flavor pairing and creativity shine through each dish, such as pairing chicken liver with chocolate or creating a capsule of chamomile and cocoa nib that dissolves in mushroom tea. The vessels are also part of the fun — hanging glass orbs, owl mugs, licking the bottom of shot glasses and sucking the smoke out from underneath, and using your hand to impart the salt of a dish.

I am humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to join One Sister in its penultimate service, and I wait with bated breath for the opening of Iliana’s new restaurant, Elizabeth, slated to open end of this summer. I’m excited to say that Elizabeth restaurant is going to be a new extension of her home, described as a “dreamy log cabin”. I know she is currently growing, foraging, pickling, and prepping for her guests and I can’t wait to see what she serves us at her new “home”.

Spring Menu at One Sister

Parsnip Bubble Tea: Parsnip tea, Swiss chard beads, licorice gel

Hanging Course: “Ramps From Where They Came”

Marshmallow and Biscuit: Buttermilk biscuit with whipped bacon fat, black sea salt, ramp powder, beet marshmallow

Homegrown Salad: Arugula sponge, goat milk sorbet, sunflower seed sorbet, lavender honey, sunflower honey, pansies, pea shoots, sunflower sprouts

Ramps From Where They Came: Pickled ramps, pickled elderberries, wakame seaweed, soil (malt flour)

Enjoy: Potato “chip” cannoli with fava bean, lemon & truffle mousse, homemade mascarpone cheese and chive pudding

Asparagus and Quail Egg: Asparagus ribbon, chilled asparagus, soft poached quail egg, pickled strawberry

Zucchini Tree Nest: Zucchini squash, black pepper and tomato water “eggs”, perched in wheat grass

Carrots and Cashews: Blanched, dehydrated & shaved carrots,
cashew milk, roasted cashews, carrot top pesto

Chef Iliana Regan

1 Pill Makes You Larger: Cocoa nib and chamomile in a dissolving capsule

1 Pill Makes You Larger in Mushroom Tea: Cocoa nib and chamomile in a capsule that dissolves in mushroom tea

Herbed Ebelskiver: Buttermilk ebelskiver filled with house made parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme goat cheese, topped with apple cider vinegar powder & powdered sugar

Radish: Shaved and lightly sauteed radish, marinated daikon radish, home grown radish sprouts, dandelion stalks, fried radish tops

Rice Crispy and Bear: Puffed wild rice, cured black bear, Wisconsin cheddar, pink peppercorn

Chocolate Dashi: Dark chocolate dashi with chia seeds

Scallop and Peas: Seared sea scallop, ham, snap peas, yogurt, candied meyer lemon rind, freeze dried peas, pea shoots

Shrimp Noodles: Shrimp Noodles with toasted kale, garlic, parmesan, butter

Facebooking the Progression

Can’t help but lick the spoon…

Oysters

Your Hand: Bay smoked mussel, spinach, garlic, lemon zest, Iowa La Quercia prosciutto

Oyster and Mushrooms on Stone: Steamed Oysters, trumpet mushrooms, chick weed, dried ramp top, dried parsley, ramp top cubes

Roe, Salty, Sweet, Smoke: Cherry wood infused white chocolate ganache, marble rye crisp, BLiS trout roe

Beef Pho broth

Owl Mug

Chicken liver mousse: Chicken liver mousse encapsulated in dark cocoa, fennel pollen, madiera gel

Rabbit Ravioli: Rabbit rillette ravioli in red wine butter sauce & sauteed mustard greens

Adoration and amazement

Good to the last drop

Homemade Cheese course: Pork loin, grits, homemade sherry vinegar ricotta, puffed barley, shallot, foraged & pickled fiddle heads, pork blood reduction

Strawberries and Beets: Strawberry custard, graham crackers, dehydrated strawberries, beet petals, beet pudding, meringues, soft rind wisconsin cheese ice cream

Oatmeal: Oatmeal ice cream, oatmeal stout caramel, cherry and hazelnut crumble, cocoa cookies

Bite: Warm chocolate and almond donut

 

El Bulli at Next restaurant

The El Bulli meal at Next was part museum, part history, and part homage. Many of the inventive items on the menu were created over 10 years ago which shows the genius and innovation behind Ferran Adria and what he did for the culinary world. He played with foam, spherification, and liquid nitrogen. He pushed captivating flavors and unusual textures. These influences are seen all over menus today. After trying to get into El Bulli in Spain for 5 years, I feel humbled and honored to have been part of Chef Dave Beran and Chef Grant Achatz’s interpretation.

Sometimes words can’t begin to capture experience or emotion, so hopefully our photos say a thousand words. The meal was exceptional — the food, the service, the techniques, and the consistent flow of surprises. In one word: inspirational.

Nitro Caipirinha with tarragon concentrate -- 2004

Nitro Caipirinha with tarragon concentrate — 2004

Sous chef making the nitro caipirinha in the middle of the dining room

Sous chef making the nitro caipirinha in the middle of the dining room

Hot/cold trout roe tempura -- 2000

Hot/cold trout roe tempura — 2000

Spherical olives -- 2005

Spherical olives — 2005

Coca of avocado, pear, anchovies, and green onion -- 1991

Coca of avocado, pear, anchovies, and green onion — 1991

Iberico sandwich -- 2003

Iberico sandwich — 2003

Golden egg -- 2001

Golden egg — 2001

Black sesame spongecake and miso -- 2007

Black sesame spongecake and miso — 2007

Chicken liquid croquettes -- 1998

Chicken liquid croquettes — 1998

Vials of Orange and Cardamom bitters to add to our Cava

Vials of Orange and Cardamom bitters to add to our Cava

Smoke foam -- 1997
Smoke foam — 1997

Carrot air with coconut milk -- 2003

Carrot air with coconut milk — 2003

Cuttlefish and coconut ravioli with soy, ginger and mint -- 1997

Cuttlefish and coconut ravioli with soy, ginger and mint — 1997

Savory tomato ice with oregano and almond milk pudding -- 1992

Savory tomato ice with oregano and almond milk pudding — 1992

Hot crab aspic with mini corn cous-cous -- 2001

Hot crab aspic with mini corn cous-cous — 2001

Cider

Cider

Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce -- 2000

Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce — 2000

Suquet of prawns --1988

Suquet of prawns –1988

Potato tortilla -- 1998

Potato tortilla — 1998

Trumpet carpaccio -- 1989

Trumpet carpaccio — 1989

Red mullet gaudi -- 1987

Red mullet gaudi — 1987

Half Acre Sanguis -- beer brewed with oranges and beets specially for the elBulli menu

Half Acre Sanguis — beer brewed with oranges and beets specially for the elBulli menu

Nasturtium with eel, bone marrow, and cucumber -- 2007

Nasturtium with eel, bone marrow, and cucumber — 2007

Civet of rabbit with hot apply jelly -- 2000

Civet of rabbit with hot apply jelly — 2000

Gorgonzola globe -- 2009

Gorgonzola globe — 2009

Foie gras caramel custard -- 1999

Foie gras caramel custard — 1999

Spice plate -- 1996

Spice plate — 1996

Spice plate match up game

Spice plate match up game

Mint pond -- 2009

Mint pond — 2009

Chocolate in textures -- 1997

Chocolate in textures — 1997

Chocolate donuts -- 2010

Chocolate donuts — 2010

Puff pasty web -- 1989 and Creme flute -- 1993

Puff pasty web — 1989 and Creme flute — 1993

Caffeine

Caffeine

"The Farewell" with passionfruit marshmallows -- 2004

“The Farewell” with passionfruit marshmallows — 2004

el bulli menu at Next

el bulli menu at Next

More on Ferran Adria: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferran_Adri%C3%A0

Roasted pasta

Always looking for new inspiration and techniques to further our cooking, we usually take our search to the Ideas in Food book or blog. This simple, yet extremely affective roasting technique brings the pasta flavor to a nutty, toasty level that is surprisingly not on grocery shelves yet.

Pasta roasting in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes

Aerial glamour shot of the roasted pasta.

Roasted pasta soaking for 2.5 hours in water to re-hydrate. This cuts down cooking time. You can also further infuse flavor by using flavored liquid.

Finished dish: Roasted pasta with roasted pasta water reduction (Finished with some acidulated butter and thyme)

Close up

Sous Vide Cooking at Home

We recently purchased a Polyscience Sous Vide Professional immersion circulator and are super excited to bring our food to the next level! Sous-vide so far has made our meat super succulent and tender without overcooking. It’s easy, hands-off cooking and the results are well worth it. So far we have only made two proteins but more experiments to come!

Pork ribs:

Sous Vide Professional heating up to temperature (140 degrees for pork ribs)

Pork ribs in airtight, vacuum sealed bags with marinade

Pork ribs consistently heating at 140 degrees for 48 hours

Finished results after added sauce and light torching

Lamb Chops:

Lamb chops from Pioneer Wholesale Meats in vacuum sealed bags with marinade

Immersion circulator at work — 140 degrees for 1 hour

Voila! Lamb chops after a slight sear in the caste iron pan