Monday, January 31, 2011

The Best Margaritas in the World

These are absolutely the best margaritas I have ever made/had in the comfort of my own home. The credit, alas, is not mine at all, that belongs to the great and talented Rick Bayless, of Top Chef Masters and other foodie fame. He runs Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, and XOCO here in Chicago. We visited Frontera about a year ago and the food was good, but the truly memorable part of the meal were the incredible margaritas. (Memorable food for cheap, by the way, can be found in abundance at XOCO, go there.) These were just the house margaritas, mind you, and they were about $14 at that. But they were amazing.

Luckily for the world, Rick chose to share his recipe for his house margaritas with a columnist here in Chicago who, in turn, chose to share it with everyone else. I personally recommend these, as do many of our friends and family members. The combination of the homemade lime simple syrup (which would be an amazing limeade on its own, by the way... and worth the hour it takes to make) and the higher quality tequila (completely worth the extra money) and the shaking over ice makes these incredible.

If you like margaritas and their limey goodness, please do yourself a favor and try these. And try not to be horrified by the extreme ratios as far as the seemingly large amount of tequila involved in these, but do drink them in moderation. The taste is exquisite, and can be enjoyed in small sips :).

Close-up of the real lime bits of goodness
Yes please

Rick Bayless' Margaritas of Awesomeness
(recipe makes 6ish, depending on your margarita size preference)

1 1/2 c freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 c sugar
2 c water
2 1/4 c 100 percent agave anejo tequila
1/2 c orange liqueur
1 lime, halved
Kosher salt

1. Place the lime juice, the sugar, and the water in a pitcher, stir well, and let refrigerate for about an hour
2. Once the simple syrup is all melded together, add the tequila and the orange liqueur into the pitcher and stir to combine
3. Using the cut side of the lime, moisten the rims of your margarita glasses/martini glasses and immerse in salt to crust the rims
4. Fill a single serve cocktail shaker about 3/4 of the way with cubed ice, fill with margarita mixture, cover, and shake until condensation appears on the outside of the shaker (or for about a 15 count)
5. Strain into one of the salted glasses, repeat the shaking for all your guests


Friday, January 28, 2011

Divine Chicken Sandwiches

Ok, so really these are Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions, Garlic Paprika Aioli and Arugula... but they're amazing and that name's too long for a title, so I shortened it. I think this new one works nicely.

This meal was born out of Brad's desire for sandwiches for dinner. his typical response when I ask him what I should make is now turkey burgers. But I'm pretty sure I've showcased about 5 different turkey burgers on this blog so far, and while they are delicious, I'm trying for a little more variety in my life. So I forced him to change his answer to the dinner question and he came up with sandwiches. Fine.

Of course, I can't just make sandwiches. I need to make delicious, melt-in-your-mouth goodness if it is going to be blog-worthy. So I found an older Bon Appetit recipe for chicken sandwiches with caramelized onions and garlic aioli. How could that not be good? I made some tweaks and they were wonderful. Side note, they were even delicious as leftovers on wheat bread the next day for lunch.

Here they are in all their wonderful glory. Mmmmmmm...

From this...

To all of this...

To this amazingness

The finished product

Worth eating, I'm telling you

Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions, Garlic Paprika Aioli and Arugula

1/2 c mayo
3 T fresh squeezed lime juice
1 t paprika
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
2 T vegetable oil
6 sweet onions, halved lengthwise then sliced thinly
1 t sugar
4 chicken breasts, pounded thinly
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sourdough bread, lightly toasted

1. Make the aioli by whisking together the mayo, 1 T of the lime juice, the paprika, the cayenne, and the garlic. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking until nicely combined and creamy. Cover and chill until time to use.
2. For caramelizing the onions, put the vegetable oil in your largest pan over medium high heat
3. Add onions and some salt and cook for 10 minutes, stirring pretty constantly until all the onions are coated and starting to soften
4. Reduce the heat to medium and for the next 45 minutes or so (yes, it takes a while) let the onions caramelize down, stirring occasionally. The trick to good, brown caramelized onions is to let them brown in the bottom of the pan a little, but not to the point of burning. Use a sturdy spatula to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan when you stir. If you need to, add the sugar to help the caramelization process along about halfway through the cooking, but if your onions are browning nicely without it, don't bother. (Side note: this will make your kitchen smell absolutely amazing)
5. Once the onions are done, remove them to a plate and cover to keep warm
6. In the same pan, heat some more olive oil over medium high heat
7. Pat your chicken breasts dry and season with salt and pepper and cover in the remaining lime juice to add some much-needed acid to this dish
8. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side (may be longer or shorter, depending on thickness)
9. Assemble the sandwiches by spreading the aioli on both sides of the toasted bread, then layering the arugula and the onions and the chicken together. You can squirt everything with a little more lime if you'd like. It can't hurt :)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm Back! With a Wine Dinner to Boot!

Hello world!

I am finally back to the world of blogging. I know it's been forever, and you'll have to excuse me for that. A little thing called a PhD program has gotten in the way. But who needs to spend more of their life studying when there is perfectly good blogging to be done? That's my attitude at this moment, anyway.

I've missed sharing my life and my table with you all lately, so here is a post to whet your appetites, as it were, for what's to be coming your way this semester.

Since I had to cancel the seasonal winter wine tasting, we hosted a progressive wine dinner instead, to kind of take its place. It was wonderful. Our friends all pitched in to help make the courses and I picked out some wines I hoped paired well with each one. A grand time was had by all and I highly recommend that you host something similar very soon... and hopefully invite me to it :).

Our menu was as follows: garlicky spinach and artichoke dip with a nice dry rose, butternut squash bisque with a chard/viognier blend, turkey bolognese with a montepulciano d'abruzzo, and chocolate chip pizookie with a zin/cab/petitie sirah/syrah blend. Everything was incredible (we have good cook friends) and I think the wines went quite nicely. I'll save the pictures and such of the wines for future cheap wines of the weeks but here are some pictures of the prep and the dinner to share with you all! Enjoy!

The tablescape

On sale Christmas ornaments that are still good for winter!
Everyone got their own snowflake, no two alike :)
Elissa's amazing spinach and artichoke dip
Heather's equally amazing butternut squash bisque

Delicious pizookie to finish off the night

We love our friends!
 Have a great night!