St. Patrick’s Day Braised Lamb Shank


I wanted to make something a little different for St. Patrick’s Day.

The wealth of Irish pubs in Evanston has sort of ruined me for corned beef and cabbage, at least for a little while. Unfortunately, even on St. Patrick’s Day what is old for me cannot be made new again.

Plus, Whole Foods foiled my attempt to make Irish lamb stew by not having any good stew meat. Bison stew, anyone? Actually, that sounds delicious. Maybe for another day. Instead of stew meat, I picked up a couple lamb shanks and cooked them up with traditional lamb stew ingredients. And mushrooms, celery root, parsnips, and brussel sprouts.   Continue reading

Steakhouse Swedish Meatballs

swedish meatballs

The last thing I expected to be making for this blog was meatballs. I hate meatballs.

Generally speaking.  Their texture is too often like gummy meat paste, or worse, reminiscent of sandpaper. There are so many bad meatballs out there.

When we chose Scandinavian food as our first international recipe project, I was a little apprehensive. More than a little. Nightmaric visions of open-faced sandwiches piled high with mayonnaise and boiled eggs and pickled herring swam before my eyes.

Considering my prejudices, Swedish meatballs seemed the most unlikely challenge to fall into my lap. So of course it did.

I didn’t stick to the book on this recipe. I decided to take some of my favorite steakhouse ingredients– thyme, red wine, onions, Worcestershire sauce, and mushrooms–and use them as inspiration for my meatballs.

And they were… delicious. Really. I used ground sirloin, red wine-caramelized onions, and panko breadcrumbs in the meatballs. They were on the loose side, but I like them that way. No gummy texture! I piled them high on creamy mashed potatoes and topped them off with an earthy portabello mushroom gravy. Who knew meatballs could be so reminiscent of a steak dinner? I didn’t. It was the perfect stick-to-your-ribs meal for a dreary Chicago winter day.

– Angela M.

Steakhouse Swedish Meatballs

mushroom gravy


For Meatballs:
– 2 lbs. ground sirloin
– 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
– 1/3 cup beef broth
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
– 1 chopped onion
– 1/4 cup red wine
– 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
– 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
– 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
– Salt and pepper

For Gravy:
– 5 portabello mushrooms, sliced into 1/4 inch wide pieces
– 2 1/2 cups beef broth
– 1/2 cup heavy cream
– 1/4 cup red wine
– Small bunch fresh thyme
– 1 tbsp butter
– 1 tbsp flour
– Salt and pepper

steakhouse swedish meatballs

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a saute pan over medium heat, caramelize the chopped onions with 1/4 cup red wine, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ground sirloin, panko breadcrumbs, eggs, beef broth, thyme, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl. When onions are translucent and reddish-brown, fold into ground sirloin mixture. Form meatballs into 1 inch balls. Be careful not to over-work the meat, or the meatballs will become tough. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the meatballs and saute until brown on all sides. Transfer meatballs to an oven-safe pan and place in oven to keep warm while making the gravy.

Add the portabello mushrooms and several sprigs of thyme into the meatball pan drippings and sautee over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add beef broth and heavy cream and heat through, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small pan over low heat, combine 1 tbsp room temperature butter with 1 tbsp flour to form a rue. With a fork, stir the rue into the gravy to thicken it, then add the red wine. Let the gravy simmer for 5-10 minutes over medium heat to thicken before serving.

Serve meatballs and gravy over mashed potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy!

Fat Tuesday, Fish Wednesday

buffalo chicken

pes•ca•tar•i•an (pe-skə-ˈter-ē-ən) n.: a vegetarian whose diet includes fish

That’s me.  At least, for the forty days of Lent it is.  My yearly ritual is to give up meat, but not fish.  There is a label for this diet.  Merriam-Webster officially added the word pescatarian last year. It joins the ranks of other not-quite vegetarian labels, including flexitarian ( noun 1. a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat 2. an omnivore).

Even though I’m not what you would consider a raging carnivore, my sacrifice gets harder every year. So Fat Tuesday is when I really go all out on meat eating. My choice of food is usually buffalo chicken, simply because it’s the one thing I need a really good reason to eat. After all, this is an equal-parts butter and Tabasco sauce we’re talking about.  And it’s incredibly difficult to eat buffalo sauce with any dignity. In fact, my hot wing eating demeanor is best described as furtive—trying impossibly to hide that fact that I am gnawing on a deep-fried bone slathered in sauce.

But on Fat Tuesday, who cares? I made my own buffalo chicken this year. To give the sauce an extra kick, I added horseradish and Worcestershire sauce, kind of like a Bloody Mary.  I also used panko breadcrumbs on the chicken so it would absorb the sauce more, making the chicken less messy.  And as for the eternal bleu cheese or ranch question? You decide.

– Catherine M.

Bloody Mary Buffalo Chicken Strips


-4 chicken breasts
-1 cup flour
-2 eggs, beaten
-3 cups panko breadcrumbs
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 stick butter
-1/2 cup hot sauce
-1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
– ½ tbsp horseradish
-1 clove minced garlic
-Aalt and pepper

Preheat the oven for 400 degrees. Cut the chicken breasts into 1- to 1 ½ – inch strips. Season them with salt and pepper. Place the flour and breadcrumbs on separate plates. Coat the chicken strips with flour and then dip in beaten eggs. Shake off excess egg before dredging the strips in the panko breadcrumbs. Drizzle the olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet and place the breaded chicken strips on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a saucepan, melt the stick of butter with the hot sauce, Worcestershire, horseradish, and garlic. Pour the sauce over the chicken, using tongs to coat each piece evenly. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Superbowl Chili Throwdown

When my father told me he was putting a turkey chili up against our chicken one, I became concerned about the legitimacy of our competition.

Some would argue that a recipe without beef can scarcely be labeled as chili. This debate is immaterial to me, but I do have some advice for the poultry-chili-is-chili camp: give it up.

Why would a delicious chicken, turkey, or bean stew want to call itself chili? Chili is the most bastardized stew there is. It is routinely reduced to a mere condiment—spooned in all its greasy ignominy atop fries, hotdogs, nachos, and even pasta. Its near relatives include the sloppy joe and beef macaroni. More often than not, home cooks season it from a pouch.

Don’t get me wrong, beef chili done right is delicious. But sometimes the specter of chili’s various permutations makes even the best bowl hard to handle.

Our chicken concoction is flavorful, healthy and satisfying. It won’t go well with fries or hot dogs, but pair it with a baking soda biscuit and you’ll be sitting pretty.

-Catherine M.

Holy Mole Chicken Chili

Serves: 6-8

– 2 lbs. chicken breast
– 2 cans great northern beans, drained (not rinsed)
– 1 can black beans, drained (not rinsed)
– 1 can diced tomatoes
– 14 oz. mild or medium salsa
– 1 bottle beer
– 1 onion
– 2 poblano peppers
– 1 tbsp. minced garlic (4-8 cloves)
– 1 tbsp. tomato paste
– 2 tbsp. dried oregano
– 1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
– 1 tbsp. ground cumin
– 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
– 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
– Salt and pepper
– Extra virgin olive oil

Poach chicken breasts for 15-20 minutes in salted water. Shred chicken into bite-size pieces, set aside. Sauté onions and peppers in extra virgin olive oil until tender. Stir in tomato paste until combined. Add chicken, garlic, oregano, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, cocoa powder, and ground cinnamon. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until flavors are well combined. Add 3 cans beans, diced tomatoes, salsa, and beer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until chili thickens. Salt and pepper to taste.