Category Archives: What’s in the Walk-in

Is It Spring Yet?

Whether or not you believe in the old folklore of Groundhog Day, as a farm-to-table restaurant, we’ll take any sign of an early spring. Lucky for us, Mr. groundhog a.k.a. “Punxsutawney Phil” did not see his shadow this year, which is hopefully an indication that asparagus, snap peas, baby carrots, and morel mushrooms are just around the corner.

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In the meantime — while we’re chomping at the bit for those warm rainy days and farm deliveries bursting with colorful produce — JV has already started to look ahead and plan spring dishes, one of which will highlight cured pigs feet.

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The pigs feet were braised for about 12 hours, picked completely clean, and then the shredded meat was combined with cooked mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) and packed in cheese cloth. The rolls hung in the cooler for about two weeks before JV transferred them to a plastic container to be salted.

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While JV said this is somewhat of an experiment, he’s hoping that the salt will essentially dry the meat out enough to be shaved on top of a dish. He’s picturing it served with some fresh spring asparagus and perhaps a warm butter sauce.

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For the next month or two (or three?) these guys will be hanging out in the walk-in cooler, curing away in a bed of salt, preparing to make their debut come springtime … and we can’t wait.

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Wintertime Cooking

I was hanging around the restaurant last week and decided to take a walk downstairs to peek inside the walk-in cooler. Unlike the spring and summer months — when every nook and cranny is packed full with fresh produce — I came across lots of potatoes, salted meats, pickled vegetables, compound butters, Brussels sprouts, radishes and cabbage (just to name a few). Translation: it’s wintertime in the Midwest.

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Though our inaccessibility to certain types of produce year-round can make cooking for a genuine farm-to-table restaurant challenging at times, we accept it with open arms. Because we don’t have the luxury of living in an area where the climate is more temperate, it forces us to be creative, think outside the box and use the ingredients we do have in ways we haven’t before. Every day, the kitchen staff meets up to go over the menu, as it not only changes seasonally, but also daily. That’s what makes dining at Nightwood so unique.

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This time of year, we’re featuring heartier breads and biscuits, potato-based dishes, lots delicious fat (are you ordering the beef fat tacos for brunch today?), and comforting pastas, like our “one long noodle” that’s filled with carbonara and served with mussels, lemon and cured egg yolk. Here’s J.D., our pasta maker extraordinaire, rolling out the noodle:

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So while some might think wintertime cooking isn’t exciting, we beg to differ … just be sure to come on an empty stomach.

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