Thursday, March 14, 2013

Restaurant Review: Bacaro


Every year, we take a foodie adventure with our friends, Nathan and Kara. In the past, we've gone to The Gilt Bar and Frontera Grill in Chicago. This year, we decided to stay local and go to Bacaro, a wine lounge in our hometown with amazing food. 

We're going to tell you what we had, but the thing about Bacaro is, the menu changes constantly. They use amazing seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. One thing you can count on though, is whatever you order will be sensational.

We started with a bottle of the Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cote du Rhone 2009. Zack loves a good Cote du Rhone, and this one did not disappoint. 

We had two appetizers, the first was flatbread with fireball sausage, sun-dried tomato pesto, cipolline onions and goat cheese. We really liked this. The sausage had a nice spice that went really well with the goat cheese.

We also tried the grilled octopus with German potato salad and a mustard vinaigrette. This was possibly the greatest octopus we've ever tasted.

Our friend Kara enjoyed the braised pork shoulder over roasted cauliflower, horseradish mashed potatoes, braised kale and a pork jus. It was very juicy and delicious. Kara previously though she didn't like cauliflower until she tasted this cauliflower.

Nathan sampled the seared beef fillet with lobster, blumenthal potatoes, spinach, a lobster hollandaise and paprika. The steak was (of course) cooked perfectly and the lobster hollendaise was exactly perfect to complement the steak.

Michelle had the sea scallops  with cabbage, sweet peppers, bacon, sweet potato puree and a cumin vinaigrette. There are few things better in the world than a perfectly cooked scallop (at least in Michelle's opinion). We never would have thought to pair sweet potato puree with scallops, but this worked amazingly well. Oh, and if anyone can tell us the type of pepper that was used in this, we'll forever be thankful.

Zack had the pan seared duck breast with a potato duck confit hash, mushrooms, arugula and topped with a chipotle vinaigrette. As you can tell from the picture, the duck was succulent and juicy. The real star here, in our opinion, was the confit hash. de-lic-ious.

Since we were on our foodie dinner, we were required to eat dessert. It had nothing to do with the fact that they looked irresistibly tasty.

Nathan and Kara had the chocolate tart with a caramel creme anglaise and bourbon whipped cream. This was rich and creamy, like you would expect from a chocolate tart. It was so irresistable, we couldn't get a picture before someone sampled it.

We split the buttermilk panna cotta that was topped with chocolate sorbet and almond praline. It's possible that there's a spoon invading my shot here. This had Michelle questioning the decision not to purchase that ice cream maker she's had her eye on. Everything tasted delicious, and even though the four of us cleared both appetizers and every drop on our plates, we finished both desserts.

We splurge on our foodie dinners, so this is by far not a typical night out for us. Bacaro is a tad pricey, but you get every penny that you pay for. We loved every minute of our experience and we highly recommend it!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Dip

We love buffalo sauce, as you might have guessed when we made Buffalo Chicken Meatballs. So, when Michelle had the girls over for a party one day, we threw together this Buffalo Chicken Dip in the slow-cooker. It was a HUGE hit.It may not be the healthiest thing to come out of our kitchen, but everyone needs a cheat day once in a while.

We snagged this recipe from and actually didn't change anything!

Here's what you need:
2 10 oz. cans of chunk chicken, drained
2 8 oz. packages light cream cheese, softened
1 cup ranch dressing
3/4 cup hot sauce (we used Frank's Red Hot)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Here's what you do:
In a high-walled skillet, heat the chicken and hot sauce over medium heat.

Add the ranch dressing.

Add the softened cream cheese and stir until everything comes together and warms through.

Stir half of the shredded cheese and stir until melted in.

Transfer the mixture to the slow-cooker and top with the rest of the shredded cheese. Turn heat on low and cover. Once the cheese has melted on top (imagine a picture of that), turn the slow-cooker to warm. 


Monday, March 4, 2013

Stuffed Flank Steak

This is the final portion of my Sunday cooking extravaganza while Zack was at work. This also comes from my Jacques Pepin "New Complete Techniques" book.

Get ready, because this is going to be a long one!

Here's what you need:
1 5 lb flank steak
1 lb ground beef
8 sprigs or so of Thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cloves of garlic
3 carrots, divided
5 celery stalks, divided
1 large red onion, divided
6 slices of whole wheat bread
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
4 cups beef stock
2 cups red wine
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt & black pepper
1-2 Tbsp cornstarch
Butcher's twine

Here's what you do:
Start by dicing 1 carrot, 2 celery stalks, 2 cloves of garlic and half of the onion.

Next, let's make some croutons. Cut the crust off the 6 slices of bread.

Carefully cut the bread into strips, then into cubes.

Heat a tablespoon of butter and olive oil in a 12" skillet.

Cook until they are brown and crispy on the outside, but still soft on the inside.

Add the croutons, ground beef, strip 4 of the thyme sprigs, and add about a half a tablespoon of Kosher salt and black pepper. I didn't really keep track of the seasoning, just until it looked like enough.

Mix together until it looks evenly combined.

Now on to the flank steak. 

With a really sharp knife, slice the steak slowly to create a pocket in the center.

Stuff the ground beef mixture into the center of the flank steak.

Fold the flaps over the stuffing and begin tying the roast. This process is pretty simple. Here's an awesome video to help you out. Basically, you tie the twine at one end of the roast, then loop it under the roast, hook the twine under it, and pull it tight.

I wrapped mine in foil and put in the fridge for a couple hours because I wasn't quite ready to start cooking it. Just make sure that you take it out and let it warm up a bit before searing. Season the outside of the roast with more salt and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a large heavy pot, heat the other tablespoon of butter and olive oil over medium-high to high heat. Sear all sides of the meat until you get a nice brown color.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and thyme, as well as the tomato and bay leaves.

Let that cook down until everything starts to soften and the onions become translucent. Now add the beef stock.

And finally, add the red wine.

Cover and braise in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, or longer if the internal temperature of your roast hasn't reached 155 degrees.

Remove the roast from the oven and set on a cutting board and cover with foil.

Now for the sauce... Put the pot back on the stove over medium heat and bring up to a boil. Add the cornstarch and whisk to combine.

Whisk for about 5 minutes while your roast rests.

Remove the twine from the roast, slice and carefully transfer to the plate. You don't want to lose your stuffing!

Now, top with the sauce.

Whew. Enjoy!