Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What's Been Hoppin'?

Gorgeous weather, a friend's birthday, two Salons and a very lazy writer make for a slow update schedule here at Food on the Dole. However, this also makes for some very good eating. Don't get me wrong--I love to write--but cooking and eating always seem to take precedence. So, with hands still smelling of Old Man Kazaam's Gillion Spice Rub and smoke from yesterday's spare ribs, here's what we've been up to at the F.o.t.D. Headquarters lately:
We had a great, great Market Salon last Wednesday. All lovely produce from Green City Market, with wonderful people to match. Folks from all walks of life. One person came down from Madison, WI; another reads Sanskrit for crying out loud. Top-notch food created as well by these Saloneers:
  • lovely and simple asparagus soup with a crouton of fresh chevre, chives and panko;
  • red leaf and spinach salad, with flavorful and nourishing spinach, so vibrant and tasty, from Tomato Mountain Farm, crispy double smoked pork loin lardons, and a poached egg;
  • spring onion, lamb's quarter (a leafy weed of sorts, not the four parts of a young sheep) and pea tendril risotto;
  • homemade rhubarb ice cream with strawberry compote.
The night was rainy but the cheer inside the Salon was not. Well done, everybody!
The next night just happened to be Old Crazy Hair's birthday. This is a guy who spends every waking moment (and most sleeping moments) planning, running around and simply doing things that makes one's hair crazy. Thus, we thought it would be nice to take the thinking off his mind for a day, and take him to Montrose Harbor to grill, drink some illegal beers and just enjoy the gorgeous weather. Foodwise, we created a tribute to a sandwich notorious in the most industrial part of Massachussetts, and beloved by O.C.H. called the Boot Mill Sandwich. It's usually a breakfast-y type sandwich but hey, we bumped it up to a ridiculous dinner sandwich. Here at the headquarters, we cooked up some home fries with plenty of lard. At the lake, we grilled two hamburger patties and a bratwurst and piled the following onto a poor, overstressed bun: homefries, burger patty, some kind of fancy cheese no one remembers the name of, bratwurst, homefries, burger patty, colby cheese, and two eggs lovingly fried up in the beloved campfire bean pot in plenty of lard. Wrapped that sucker in the mezzanine-like cardboard that separates a 30 pack of beer and delivered it into the capable jowls of O.C.H. He dubbed it the FrankenBootMill and nearly finished it. Whew.
Saturday found the Beer Food Salon moving ahead at full force, and what a tasty Salon it was (despite, unbeknownst to me until the Salon schedule was out, the fact that Two Brothers here in IL was having a Hop Juice beer event that day. D'oh!). Heavy indeed, with all kinds of beer brought from Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland, North Coast Brewing in California, Founder's in Michigan, Allegash in Portland, ME, my newly beloved New Glarus in Wisconsin and Uinta Brewing from, of all places, Salt Lake City. I'll spare you reviews on the beer aside from saying they are all delicious, and focus on the food here:
  • We started out by deep frying some risotto balls, stuffed with cheese, called arancini (Italian for "little orange" due to their color and shape when they come out of the fryer) and dipping them in a quick puttanesca sauce we whipped up;
  • mussels steamed with a bit of white wine (the beer we had, I thought, should be saved for drinking, and would result in too bitter and hoppy of a taste in the final product) with celery, shallots and all kinds of butter;
  • frites, double fried in shortening (well known to to reduce the stink of frying in the place), served with a rich, garlicky aioli;
  • my beloved sausage plate (long ago, I got this on every trip to The Hop Leaf--it has changed since those days, so I usually stick to the delicious sandwiches and/or steak frites, but my memory and love of that original sausage plate lives on) of a few kinds of bratwurst, veal wieners, mettwurst, kielbasa, seared and stewed in a bunch of beans, crispy Benton Ham lardons, Wild Turkey bourbon and maple syrup;
  • to bring us back up to the land of the living, a simple and crisp bistro salad with butterleaf lettuce, chives, parsley and orach greens.
Now that was a solid meal. One of my favorite topics to eat. Beer was great, company even better--a couple from way up in Wisconsin came down and we couldn't have been more pleased with their presence. So glad we're getting folks from all over!

Anyway, we're gearing up for the Seafood Salon tomorrow; I'll be shopping for that tomorrow so if anyone wants to snatch up the last two seats, do so by then! Oh, and those spare ribs? Well, I was walking past the great Paulina Meat Market yesterday and got my hands on some lovely pork spare ribs. Made up a rub for 'em with all kinds of spices, then smoked them until the meat was juicy and thinking about coming off the bone, but still somewhat chewy (gotta have that chew in my opinion--it is meat being pulled off a bone with teeth, after all), outside nice and charred and so smoky in taste. Served them on top of some beans leftover from the Beer Food Salon and drank a couple beers to wash it all down. Nice way to end a crazy week.