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Perfect 10: Our best recipes for 2012

Chef Chao Thapthimkuna's black rice pudding UniSushi BBQ Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times Media

Chef Chao Thapthimkuna's black rice pudding at Union Sushi and BBQ in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 24, 2013 2:08AM



The Sun-Times had many wonderful recipes featured in its food sections during the past year. That makes it tough to whittle the list down to just 10.

The 10 we’ve selected as the year’s best — some sweet, some savory — all deserve a second look. If you have some down time this week, get into the kitchen and try one — or more. You won’t be disappointed.

Sue Ontiveros, Food editor

CARAMEL APPLE CRUMBLE BARS

MAKES 16 SERVINGS

Filling:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large (or 5 medium) apples, peeled and sliced

3 tablespoons sugar

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of grated nutmeg

Dough:

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup chopped nuts, optional

9 ounces caramel candies

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 9x9-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper.

To make filling, melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in apple slices, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are golden brown and caramelized (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, prepare dough. In medium mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; stir to blend. Add butter pieces and cut into dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk and vanilla and stir with fork or knead very briefly just until crumbly dough comes together.

Transfer about 2/3 of dough mixture to prepared baking pan; press dough down into even layer. Bake until light golden (about 12 to 14 minutes).

While dough base is baking, unwrap caramels. Combine with and cream in medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt caramels, stirring occasionally, until mixture is totally smooth. Remove from heat.

Once base layer is baked, pour caramel mixture over top. Layer with cooked apple slices. Crumble remaining 1/3 of dough mixture over apple slices. If desired, sprinkle top evenly with chopped pecans or walnuts.

Bake until top is golden brown (22 to 25 minutes). Transfer pan to wire rack to cool. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

GoBoldWithButter.com

PEKING-STYLE ROAST CHICKEN

MAKES 4 to 6 SERVINGS

1 approximately 4-pound chicken

1½ teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

12 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed

½ cup water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.

Truss the chicken with soft cotton twine.

Lower the chicken breast-side down into the boiling water, return water to a boil (about 3 minutes) then immediately lower heat and cook gently for 2 minutes.

Drain and set chicken on a wire rack in a roasting pan.

Mix sauce ingredients through vinegar in a small bowl and brush chicken on all sides with about half of the mixture. Roast, breast-side up for 30 minutes.

Brush chicken again with the rest of the honey mixture and roast 30 minutes.

Arrange mushrooms in one layer under the rack in the pan and add the water. Roast another 15 minutes.

Transfer chicken to serving platter and keep warm. Pour juices and mushrooms into a saucepan and let stand 2 to 3 minutes. Remove as much fat from the surface as possible and reheat the sauce.

Remove twine from chicken and pour sauce over carved chicken.

To truss a chicken: Fold wings of chicken under its back. Slide a 36-inch piece of cotton twine under the tail and around the drumsticks, then cross the twine on top of the chicken and slide ends under the drumsticks to form a figure 8.

Pull together to close the tail opening, then pull ends of twine around sides of the bird to join at the neck end, pulling wings into the body.

Tie at the back of the wings using a double knot and pulling tightly so twine does not slide off.

From “Essential Pepin” by Jacques Pepin

BANG BANG PIE SHOP’S STRAWBERRY PIE

MAKES 8 SERVINGS

3 pints strawberries washed, hulled and halved, divided

1 pie crust, pre-baked

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Place half of the sliced strawberries in the crust.

Combine remaining strawberries with sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice in a pot over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When mixture comes to a simmer, lower heat and mash some of the berries with a spoon. Simmer for 3 minutes, until thick and glossy.

Add vanilla to strawberry mixture and stir to combine. Pour hot filling over the fresh strawberries in the crust; stir gently if needed.

Chill pie until filling is set. Top with freshly whipped cream.

Megan Miller, Bang Bang Pie Shop

WINTER PANZANELLA SALAD

MAKES 6 to 8 SIDE-DISH SERVINGS

1 cup orange juice

1 lemon, zest and juice

Salt and pepper

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 pound stale sourdough, crust removed, cut into 1-inch dice and allowed to dry out slightly

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped fine

1 bunch kale (about 1 pound), stems removed and cut thin

2 pounds roasted carrots (see Note)

Warm orange juice in small saucepan over medium heat. Summer until reduced to 1/4 cup.

In small bowl, combine orange juice with lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine bread with vinaigrette. Add parsley, kale and warm roasted carrots. Season with salt and pepper. (If salad is still dry, add more lemon juice and olive oil.)

Let salad rest 20 minutes before eating so bread softens and flavors meld.

Note: To roast carrots, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in 400-degree oven until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Adapted from Sandra Holl, Floriole Cafe & Bakery

STURGEON WITH WHITE BEANS, MUSHROOM AND OLIVE CLAM BROTH

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

¼ cup diced bacon

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and chopped (see Note)

1 shallot, very thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons dry white wine

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large

2 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)

½ cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise

1 pound Manila clams

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

6 (6-ounce) sturgeon fillets, skin removed (see Note)

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Set large frying pan with high sides over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring until crisp (remove excess fat, if you wish). Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, mushrooms, shallot and garlic. Stir until mushrooms are slightly limp, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add butter, wine, beans, tomatoes, anchovies, if using, and olives. Stir over high heat until butter is melted and liquid comes to boil. Add clams and lemon juice. Cover pan and cook over medium heat until clams open, 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open. (You also can place pan in the oven to cook the clams.)

Remove clams, pull out clam meat and add back to sauce. Add chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Season sturgeon fillets with salt and pepper. Heat sauté pan over medium-high and add remaining olive oil. Place fish in pan flesh side down (the side that had skin should be up). Cook on one side ¾ of way, then flip (flesh should be browned), place pan in oven and finish cooking. This will take 4 to 6 minutes, depending on thickness of fish.

Spoon mushroom-clam sauce onto plates and place fish on top.

Note: Crimini, button mushrooms or chanterelles (fresh or dried and reconstituted) work well.

You can use any firm, white fish such as halibut, cobia, grouper or striped bass.

Adapted from Mark Palicki, Fortune Fish Co.

BAR TOMA’S PARMIGIANO HERB SPREAD

MAKES 3/4 CUP

1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 medium garlic cloves, toasted

1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped dried oregano

1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon finely chopped capers

Pinch of sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. After 2 minutes, add the garlic cloves and brown slowly on all sides, 10 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

Meanwhile, cut the rind from the Parmigiano cheese and cut cheese into small chunks, discarding the rind (or save to add to a soup). Put the cheese into a food processor and process to a fine grate. Add the toasted garlic and the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil in a slow stream and process until the mixture is fully incorporated and smooth.

Fold in the oregano, parsley, thyme and capers, and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

The spread can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving with assorted raw vegetables for dipping.

Chef Tony Matuano

VANILLA-BOURBON PUMPKIN TART

MAKES 8 SERVINGS

Crust:

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tablespoon finely chopped pecans

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Cooking spray

Filling:

1 cup (8 ounces)

1/3 -less-fat cream cheese, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons bourbon

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 teaspoon ground allspice

Topping:

½ cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare crust: Combine first 3 ingredients in bowl. Drizzle butter over crumb mixture; stir with fork. Firmly press into bottom and 1 inch up sides of 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned; cool on a wire rack.

To prepare filling: Place cream cheese, ½ cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add pumpkin and eggs; beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed.

Add bourbon and next 5 ingredients (through allspice); beat 1 minute or until combined. Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared pan. Important: Wrap foil around springform pan to make sure water doesn’t sneak in from water bath. Place springform pan in a large roasting pan; add hot water to roasting pan to depth of 1 inch. Bake 35 minutes or until center barely moves when side of pan is tapped. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve with whipped topping.

From Cooking Light’s “The New Way to Cook Light”

BLACK RICE PUDDING

MAKES 18 SERVINGS

2 cups black rice (see Note)

4 cups water

2 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk

1 cup raw cane sugar

1 (6-inch) pandan leaf (see Note)

Pinch salt

TOPPING

1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk

1/2 cup raw cane sugarPinch salt

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

Bring black rice and water to a boil over medium heat and cook 14 minutes.

Cover pot with foil, reduce heat to low and continue to cook for 30 more minutes. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Bring coconut milk to a boil. Stir in sugar, pandan leaf and salt and let boil gently for a few minutes until sugar is dissolved. Strain mixture into bowl.

Mix still-warm cooked black rice into coconut milk mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Bring coconut milk, sugar and salt to a boil in small saucepan.

Whisk in cornstarch and water. Boil for 5 seconds, stirring. Remove from heat and let cool.

Serve rice pudding in clear glasses or bowls with topping spooned over top.

Note: Black rice can be found at Asian markets, including Tai Nam Food Market, 4925 N. Broadway, Viet Hoa Plaza, 1051 W. Argyle, and Joong Boo Market, 3333 N. Kimball, and some Whole Foods stores.

Pandan leaves often are sold frozen and can be found at Asian markets, including Tai Nam Food Market, 4925 N. Broadway.

Chef Chao Thapthimkuna, Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar

WILD RICE SALAD

MAKES 6-8 SERVINGS

½ cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1½ cups wild rice

3 cups water or broth

¼ cup pecans

2 pears, cored and chopped into ½-inch pieces

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

8 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper

½ cup Basil Vinaigrette (below)

In a 3-quart saucepan, saute onion in 1 tablespoon oil until wilted. Add rice and stir to coat grains with oil. Add water and bring to a boil, then lower to gentle simmer and cover. Cook until grains are tender but not split, about 30 minutes.

While rice cooks, toast nuts in a dry skillet and set aside; prepare vinaigrette.

In a large skillet, heat second tablespoon of oil and toss pears and thyme until pear is just tender. Add spinach, tossing gently until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the cooked rice and toss just until warmed through, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle the vinaigrette over it. Garnish with nuts just before serving.

Serve warm as a side dish or at room temperature as a salad.

Basil Vinaigrette

MAKES 11/2 CUPS

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves

1 teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup olive

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender until thick. Let stand 10 minutes to allow flavors to mellow before using. Can be stored in a tightly lidded jar in refrigerator for 1 week. Judith Dunbar Hines

MANHATTAN-STYLE CLAM CHOWDER

MAKES 4 MAIN-COURSE SERVINGS

12 slices bacon, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon thyme

Pinch cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons flour

1 (51-ounce) can chopped clams

2 (16-ounce) cans tomatoes

1 pound potatoes, peeled, diced and cooked in water just to cover

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 bell pepper, diced

2 garlic cloves, mashed

1 tablespoon Worcestershire

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot or dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon.

Melt butter in bacon fat and saute onion and celery until the onion is translucent. Add the bay leaf, thyme, cayenne pepper and flour. Cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes until well-combined.

Whisk in the juice drained from the clams, tomatoes and the water drained from the potatoes. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently to avoid scorching. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.Add the carrots and bell pepper. Simmer until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, clams, potatoes and bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes or until well-heated.

From Burhop’s Fish & Seafood



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