Category Archives: Recipes

Honey Chili Glaze

If you’ve dined with us in recent weeks, you may have ordered the trout entrée — Wisconsin trout with sweet corn, bacon, green beans, onion and fava bean aioli — which features our house-made, honey chili glaze. The glaze is so simple to make at home and instantly brings life to any white-fleshed fish, like trout, tilapia, halibut or cod. While our recipe only requires four ingredients, you may have to search a bit for the granulated sweet bell pepper. Most specialty food stores/spice shops will carry it, but you could also consider dehydrating your own sweet bell peppers and grinding them finely in a mortar and pestle. If you’re local, dehydrated sweet bell pepper can be found here.

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:: INGREDIENTS ::

  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sweet bell pepper

:: METHOD ::

Combine the honey and vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then add the spices. Stir and cook down until thick; then brush onto fish (including skin) if using a sauté pan. If you choose to roast the fish, put the glaze on first.

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We love this glaze because it adds some intense, unexpected flavor … and clears your sinuses, too ;) Chili lovers, rejoice.


Go Pig or Go Home

This weekend, JV and our sous chef, Ben, are headed to Philadelphia to partake in COCHON EPIC No.2 —  an ‘expression’ of Cochon 555 that showcases a one-time-only event, never to be replicated. Last year’s EPIC was held at the James Beard House in NYC and featured a pork-centric dinner paired with vintage Champagnes for 80 guests. This year, the event will be held on Sunday, July 28, at the Ritz-Carlton in Philly, where 20 local chefs will team up to prepare six whole heritage breed pigs (that’s more than 1500 pounds of pork!) from local farms to create a mouth-watering feast.

And unlike Cochon 555, EPIC is not a competition, but rather “a celebration of all the chefs, farmers and pork-enthusiasts Philly has to offer,” — per their website. Sounds pretty awesome, right? The good news is, if you’re lucky enough to be in the Philly area and are interested in stuffing your face with delicious pork for an evening, tickets are still available here.

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Credit: Cochon555

JV was invited to participate as a National Chef, along with Matt Jennings of Farmstead in Providence, and Todd Mussman of Muss & Turners and Local Three in Atlanta. They will be preparing a collaborative menu to build enthusiasm for Cochon Heritage BBQ, a new Cochon event designed to feature the utilization of whole heritage breed pigs in BBQ communities across the nation. In preparation for the event, JV decided to spit-roast what’s called a “saddle-cut” of pork, meaning the loin, rib and belly are completely connected. Whoa.

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Though cooking time was a bit of a guessing game, JV’s two main concerns were as follows: don’t burn the place down, and second, don’t break the spit; keep in mind — that’s nearly 100 pounds of pork hanging on for dear life!

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He smothered the pork in a delicious rub of spices, brown sugar and garlic (see recipe below), and let it go for a good three hours, all while feeding and maintaining the fire with a combination of apple and cherry wood (for flavor/smoke) and white oak wood (for heat). The end result? You’ll have to watch the video to find out ;)

EPIC Pork Rub Recipe:

::INGREDIENTS:: 

For every pound of pork use …

  • 1 T. coriander seed
  • 1 T. dill seed
  • 1 T. fennel seed
  • 1 T. whole juniper
  • 1 T. whole allspice
  • 1 T. whole clove
  • 1 T. mustard seed
  • 2 T. black pepper corn
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced

::METHOD::

Crush spices together using a mortar and pestle, and then combine them with the salt, sugar and garlic. Rub this mixture on the pork and let sit for 2 days. Try using this rub on a pork loin that’s roasted in a hot oven, about 450 degrees F.


2013 Green City Market Chef BBQ

Last week we were serving up some classic childhood snacks (with a twist, of course) at the Green City Market Chef BBQ Benefit in Lincoln Park. JV was handing out mini, brown paper bags filled with “Cracker-Jacks” and crispy pig ears, while our pastry chef, Sarah, was cooling guests down with her grownup cucumber-gin and black raspberry push-pops.

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“As you can see, this is a very technical dish (:: insert sarcasm ::)  … ” — JV

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Technical or not — guests couldn’t resist the sweet ‘n salty combination of caramel popcorn and pig ears tossed with peanuts, green coriander and maple habanero sauce.

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And just in case you missed us, try making your own at home — just follow our recipe below for the caramel corn, and then add some salted peanuts and crispy bacon for the full effect :)

Caramel Corn Recipe – Yields ~8 servings

:: INGREDIENTS ::

  • 1 c. butter
  • 2 c. brown sugar; packed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 8 cups popcorn; popped

:: METHOD ::

First, preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Then, combine butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Then, pour this mixture over the popcorn and stir until evenly coated. Bake on a large pan for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. When finished, spread popcorn on waxed paper to dry. Be sure to store in an airtight container to retain its freshness!

See you at next year’s BBQ!


Spaghetti alla Chitarra

For those who have been to Nightwood, you know that handmade pasta is an important part of our menu. While the shapes and styles change every week or two, our spaghetti alla chitarra remains pretty constant. I asked JV how this particular type of pasta came to be at the restaurant, and he explained that when his parents moved to Italy for a brief period of time, he asked them to send him some authentic pasta equipment … instead, they went online and found a Chitarra from a company in Pennsylvania and sent it to the restaurant. Authentic? Yes. Directly from Italy? Not quite.

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Regardless of how it got here, we’re thankful for it: this type of pasta has been a steady customer favorite over the years and lends itself well to an array of ingredients and flavor combinations. The rich, all-purpose egg yolk dough is perfect when it comes to crafting hand-cut shapes like ravioli, pappardelle — and of course the spaghetti alla chitarra.

In Italian, “chitarra” (KEY-tarra) translates to guitar, and you can see from the photo above how this piece equipment resembles a small guitar — strings and all. The origins of the spaghetti alla chitarra appear to come from the center and southern regions of Italy, particularly the region of Abruzzo. There, they like to serve the spaghetti with a simple meat ragu. Though the chitarra may look slightly intimidating at first glance, it’s actually quite simple to use: sheets of handmade pasta are placed directly on top of the strings and pushed through with a rolling pin. Easy, right? Be sure to check out the video below, as JV makes the pasta and shows how to use the Chitarra.

:: INGREDIENTS ::

(yields approx. 4 servings)

  • 1/2 lb. all-purpose flour (~2 cups)
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • Warm water (~1/3 cup, give or take)

:: METHOD ::

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt and create a well in the center. Add the egg yolks and some of the warm water to the well. Begin to mix with fingers, slowly pulling the flour into the center of the well. Add more water as needed until dough begins to come together. Start to knead the dough in the bowl (it’s okay if there’s extra flour left in the bottom of the bowl). Once you get a good chunk of dough, remove it from the bowl and knead it by hand for about 30 minutes to develop the gluten. Now that your arm feels like it’s ready to fall off, tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes so the gluten can relax.

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When the dough is done resting, take a rolling pin and begin to roll the dough out on a floured surface until you’ve achieved a smooth, almost leathery consistency without any cracks or crumbles. Finally, cut the pasta into desired shapes and briefly cook in salted boiling water (time depends on thickness/shape) — the spaghetti alla chitarra should take less than 1 minute to cook.

Watch the video to see JV make the dough from start to finish, plus how to use the chitarra:

A few final thoughts … this pasta dough also freezes great, so you can easily double or triple the recipe and keep it frozen until ready for use. Kitchen Tip: we suggest freezing the dough in thin discs rather than large chunks — it’ll thaw much faster when you’re ready to use it. Also consider using good quality eggs when making this dough; fresh, deep orange yolks will result in a beautiful looking pasta. If you’re interested in purchasing your own Chitarra, check out the Fante’s Kitchen Shop here.


The Secret Behind Our Burger

Not to toot our own horn or anything … but our burger is good. Like, really good. And even for someone who rarely eats red meat — it’s pretty darn scrumptious. Maybe it’s the high quality ground beef we use from Slagel Family Farm in Fairbury, IL, or maybe it’s because we add our own house-made worcestershire sauce to the beef.

Ok, maybe it’s both.

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Every week, we receive our meat delivery from Slagel, which always contains ground beef. After all, the burger does grace the menu every day of the week — even on Sundays for brunch. The ground beef we use is made up of 85% lean beef, 10% pork fat and 5% beef fat, which is then combined with our special worcestershire sauce — which is the big secret behind our burger. Nonetheless, we can’t ignore the fact that we’re using super high-quality beef, so let’s get to that first …

Check out this bit of information from Slagel’s website; they talk about their beef and what makes it so good:

 “We raise Batavian cattle on a diet of grass, grain and alfalfa, hay and wheat straw. We do not strictly feed all grass or all grain to our cattle since we feel some variation in their diet is beneficial. Our cattle do not receive hormones or implants, so they must be fed for 18-24 months, which is considerably longer than industry averages. By combining this breed of cattle with properly managed production techniques, we result in premium quality beef which generally grades high choice and prime. This prime beef is then dry aged at our processing facility approximately 25 days to enhance the product quality even further. The carcasses are then hand-cut to order into steaks (which can be dry aged even further if desired), dry aged ground beef, roasts and many other cuts.”

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Even if you can’t get your hands on Slagel’s ground beef, try making our worcestershire sauce at home and adding it to your own burger the next time you’re grilling. It’s a bit of a process but totally worth it.

:: INGREDIENTS ::

(yields ~1qt)

  • 6 oz. fresh horseradish
  • 1 oz. sardine filet; soaked and cleaned of bones
  • 2 onions
  • 2 jalapeño peppers
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 tsp. coarse black pepper
  • 2 c. water
  • 4 c. champagne vinegar
  • 1 c. dark molasses
  • 12 cloves
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 lemon; peeled and chopped

:: INSTRUCTIONS ::

Add horseradish, sardine, onion, jalapeño, garlic and pepper to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Then, add the puree to a heavy-bottomed pot and cook until this mixture has caramelized. Be careful not to scorch the bottom! Once it has caramelized, add the water, vinegar, molasses, cloves, salt and lemon to the pot. Simmer over low heat and allow to reduce. Check the seasoning. Remove from the heat and cool. Then, blend it once more until very smooth. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks. This also freezes great!

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While other dishes have come and gone over the years, the burger remains a constant on our menu. I do suppose there’s something to be said about the simplicity of ordering a really delicious burger, even when it’s up against other intricate menu items like our milk-streamed brisket with cornbread polenta and a foie gras-tomato vinaigrette, or the spit-roasted half chicken with potato and honey-yeast gnocchi in a dried chili sauce.

Perhaps it’s that “safe” feeling you get when ordering a patty of beef stuck between two pieces of bread: there’s no guesswork — you know you can just sit down, eat something that’ll taste really, really good, wipe your mouth off, and call it a night. So, goodnight.


Savory Tart Dough

If you joined us for brunch this past Sunday (1/6), maybe you were one of the lucky guests who ordered our savory tart. It was filled with a custard made from Clock Shadow Creamery quark, which was then topped with Brussels sprouts and a runny egg. Is your mouth watering yet?

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The good news is, even if you didn’t have the chance to try it at the restaurant, I stopped by Nightwood on Saturday while JV was rolling out the tart dough for brunch and snagged the recipe from him … so now you can make it at home.

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:: INGREDIENTS – SAVORY TART DOUGH ::

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. of each: dried dill, ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 c. cold, unsalted butter; cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 c. cold water

:: INGREDIENTS – CUSTARD :: 

(Note: This will only yield enough custard base for 1-2 small tarts. Multiply the recipe as necessary.)

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. soft/fresh cheese (we used quark)
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

:: METHOD ::

On a flat, non-stick or floured surface, combine the flour, salt and dried herbs/seasonings. Then, using the “cut-in method,” incorporate the cold butter into the flour mixture (using your fingers or a fork) until it resembles chunks the size of peas. This will ensure a flaky crust. Now, take the cold water and slowly add it to the mixture, carefully incorporating it into the dough. It’s difficult to say whether or not you will need all of the water; you are basically adding it until the dough comes together nicely and isn’t crumbling into dry pieces. Be sure not to over-work the dough. Once you’ve achieved the right consistency, you can either separate it into smaller disks of dough if you’re making individual tarts (yields ~6), or keep it in one large disk if making 1-2 large tarts. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Now …  watch JV finish the tart here:

Also, note that the cooking times are dependent on the size of tart that you’re making. The small tart featured here took about 10-15 minutes to blind-bake, and then an additional 20 minutes or so to bake until the custard was set up. Larger, thicker tarts will obviously take longer.

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Please comment below if you have any questions about this recipe! Enjoy!


Potato Talk + Our Tots Recipe

Happy New Year, everyone! We thought we’d kick off 2013 by talking about one of our favorite ingredients: the potato. And if you’ve ever joined us for our Sunday Brunch, chances are you’ve had our tater tots. Customers are constantly stopping at the kitchen counter to ask how the tots are made and what exactly makes them so good compared to others. The secret: cooking the potatoes in a very specific way, which yields a flavorful result and crispy outer crust.

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Our executive chef, JV, explains how it’s done:

“The thing that I like the most about potatoes is that they never stop being productive. They’re like the vegetable equivalent of the egg. There are hundreds of known ways to cook them and I still find it exciting to contemplate new ones. Also, as with eggs, the time and temperature at which you cook them greatly affects the outcome. You can cook an egg at 145 degrees fahrenheit for 45 minutes and come out with a completely different result than if you shave off a few degrees and add a few minutes. It’s neither a recipe nor a ratio —  it’s a result. And even if it looks gross and tastes like shit, it’s a building block for something else — I promise.

Same goes for potatoes. You can end up with some gloppy, gluey mess (which is what, hopefully, you’ll be able to avoid after reading this) and understand something about potatoes and how they like to be treated. We figured out a while ago that cooking potatoes a couple of times, each time at a higher temperature, yields the most pleasing results. We always blanched our cut potatoes in hot oil first and then fried them a second time in really hot oil for crispy french fries, but I never really thought about why. The blanching seems to pull out most of the moisture so that the second cooking (the hot frying) could just concentrate on crisping up the exterior without all of that moisture ruining the crust. But what’s really going on is that we are using gentle heat to break down that starch that could eventually cause a problem, and then more aggressive heat to break down the remaining cells without any danger of the starch bunching up on us. Pretty lame and unscientific explanation; these guys can probably explain it way better: Harold McGee and Ideas in Food.

So, we started thinking about all of our potato dishes this way. At this point, almost four years later, there isn’t a potato in our kitchen that doesn’t get cooked at least twice. It’s a huge pain in the ass, taking the temperature of every single potato, but it does yield some tasty results. Like our Nightwood tots. Now, just to clarify, we are talking about your everyday, high-starch, russet potatoes. They are the workhorse in our kitchen. We love our little red-skinned new potatoes and German butterballs, but russets store the best, and they’re also available with consistent quality year round.”

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NOTE: please only fry these things if you have a heavy bottomed, deep pot. They cause the oil to bubble up quite a bit, and we don’t want anyone getting hurt!

:: INGREDIENTS ::

  • 2-3 large russet potatoes
  • Canola oil
  • Salt

:: PREPARATION ::

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Roast potatoes until they reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees F.
  • Let them cool to room temperatures and then refrigerate them overnight.
  • The next day, peel them and then grate with a box grater. Season lightly with salt.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to form little balls (you gotta really jam it in there!)
  • Put the balls on a baking sheet and freeze overnight.

:: TO FRY ::

  • Heat a few inches of the canola oil in a REALLY DEEP, BIG POT to 350 degrees F.
  • Using a big slotted spoon, gently lower the balls straight from the freezer into the hot oil.
  • Let them fry for a few minutes until they are golden brown.
  • Carefully remove and place on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Season with salt.
  • Once more — BE CAREFUL!

So, now you know the secret behind our tots. It might be a two-day process, but the end result is definitely worth the extra bit of effort. And if you don’t feel like making them at home, grab a few friends and come in for brunch (we’re open for brunch every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)

… And you could even take some tots home with you :)