Terrific recipes from Chicago chefs, including seared scallops with bacon-braised chard and a flaky pear pie.
Food & Wine
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Crespelle with Ricotta and Marinara
In this recipe, adapted from Wine Bar Food by Chicago restaurateur Tony Mantuano and his wife, Cathy, lush ricotta-filled crêpes bake in a rich marinara sauce. The Mantuanos like to pour a Tuscan red blend with the crêpes, like the cherry-inflected 2004 Monte Antico. Also try: the juicy 2006 Tuttobene Rosso.
The night before a long bike ride, Laurent Gras carbo-loads by eating pasta tossed with a variety of vegetables for dinner; here, he combines green tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus and vitamin A–rich spinach.
Malabar Spice-Crusted Hanger Steaks with Gingered Carrot Puree
Bruce Sherman, chef at Chicago's North Pond and an F&W Best New Chef 2003, spent more than three years living in India. He uses spices from the Malabar Coast, a region in the southwestern part of the country, to form the crispy crust for his hanger steaks. "On the Malabar Coast, ginger, coconut and cinnamon all grow near each other, so the flavors naturally complement one another," he says.
Crispy Grits with Sweet-and-Sour Beets and Mushrooms
This recipe was inspired by a grits dish made by Paul Virant, who worked at Chicago's famous Blackbird restaurant before becoming chef at Vie in Western Springs, a suburb of the city. "Grits aren't necessarily part of my cooking—polenta would be more traditional. But the texture of these white grits blew me away," he says. The earthy grit cakes are ideal with a medium-bodied Belgian-style beer like Italy's Le Baladin's Nora, with its ginger and orange peel notes.
With only a few ingredients, Frontera Grill's Rick Bayless's salpimentado (salt-and-pepper) ceviche is typical of what one would find at stands around the southern tip of Baja. Cooks often make it with sierra, a large and meaty Mexican fish, but tuna works just as well.
Tangy Roasted Chicken Thighs with Artichoke Panzanella
Panzanella, the Italian salad, is typically made with tomatoes, onions and chunks of bread. In her smart version, Koren Grieveson combines grilled bread and sweet broiled tomatoes with marinated baby artichokes before dressing the warm salad with a lemony vinaigrette. It's fabulous served alongside crisp chicken.
Ratatouille contains all kinds of vegetables, including zucchini, squash, eggplant, tomatoes and bell peppers. This recipe from the chef of NoMi at the Chicago Park Hyatt hotel is made in a large skillet, then topped with fluffy egg whites that puff up in the oven.
Giuseppe Tentori's quinoa salad is a delightful mix of cucumber, thin green beans, parsley and feta. What makes it special is that Tentori pickles the radishes in red wine vinegar and sugar before tossing them into the salad, where they add a puckery crunch.
"When you learn how to cook scallops with a crisp golden crust, they're just so good," says Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, a Chicago chef. To help brown the scallops, she adds butter to the pan halfway through cooking. The butter and bacon that flavor the colorful chard make the dish nicely rich, a quality balanced by a fruity, slightly acidic Gewürztraminer.
"I grew up watching my mom make pies," says 2002 Best New Chef Grant Achatz. " My father would always envy her amazingly tender and flaky crusts. He is a great cook, but he could never quite make a piecrust like she can. Her crust rules, and I understand now that the secret is finesse, and genetically cold hands." Achatz's pie, inspired by his mom's, is as straightforward as it gets, with a melt-in-your-mouth all-shortening crust and a lightly sweetened pear filling with just a hint of spice.
Gale Gand, an F&W Best New Chef 1994, is the executive pastry chef and a partner at Tru in Chicago. She's also the host of Food Network's Sweet Dreams. Her follow-up to the cookbook Gale Gand's Short + Sweet is a collection of recipes from Tru, which will be published later this year. Gand got this recipe from her mother-in-law, Vita Seidita; the fritters are also good sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or dipped in jelly.