Posts from October, 2010

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Just In Time for Holiday Baking: 20% Off Emile Henry!

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Erica

I can’t believe it is time to start planning my Thanksgiving menu!  Although the days are a bit shorter and certainly chillier, I truly relish this change of seasons.  The summer months have flown by- full of barbeques, ice cream treats, and farmers’ markets finds- and now leave us ready to celebrate the cooler months and all the food traditions they bring.  In these blustery fall days, I crave fresh pumpkin pies, rich potato gratins, and melting pots of fondue.  Happily, The Chopping Block celebrates this change of seasons with a well-timed sale throughout November: 20% Off All Emile Henry! 

This wonderful French bakeware line is perfect for everything from holiday pies to broiled bowls of French onion soup to creamy casseroles of baked pasta.  All of the pieces in the line are oven, broiler, freezer, microwave and dishwasher safe, so you never have to think twice throughout your cooking process.  Their rich colors and elegant lines also make them perfect to serve in, so you can transfer your dishes directly from your oven to your holiday table (and then right into the dishwasher, too!).   Made in France from a special clay with a high mineral content, they heat up evenly, hold and distribute tempeartures consistently, and create a perfect environment for browning and baking.  We carry their classic baking pans, gratin dishes, and pie plates, as well as their fondue pots, pizza stones, and decorative tableware.  The versatility and durability of each piece cannot be beat!

I have many pieces of Emile Henry at home, and love the results I consistently get in my dishes – perfect browning, even cooking, and beautiful crusts.  They will be featured prominently at my Thanksgiving table this year – most likely full of Baked Sweet Potatoes, Corn Casserole, and Pumpkin Pie. Thank goodness for Emile Henry, and for a special sale!

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Erica oversees the general retail operations for both Chopping Block stores. Along with her store managers, she makes sure our retail spaces are looking good, our retail staff is feeling good, and our customers and students are having a good time whenever they visit. She loves cooking at home and attending TCB classes whenever she can, and when she’s not eating food, thinking about food, or making food, she also enjoys practicing yoga, traveling as much as she can, and kicking back with her boyfriend and nearby family (usually over food!).

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It slices, It dices, It chops – The Chef Knife!

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Clair

It is one of the most important tools in your kitchen, or at least it should be!

A good quality “SHARP” chef’s knife can make all the difference in how much you enjoy cooking and how fast you can get your prep work done and dinner on the table.

I am never surprised when someone tells me they use their serrated bread knife or steak knife for most of their work in the kitchen.  I am however always ecstatic when I can show someone how to dice an onion quickly, in uniform size and without tears, all by using good sharp chef knife.

One of the questions I hear asked often is “what’s your favorite knife”?  My answer is – it depends on what I need to cut. 

I have 5 knives that I use most often.

  1. My Global 8” chef knife.  My #1 go to for most all cut work I do.
  2. My Fredrick Dick 10” chef knife.  Used for large fruits and veggies (watermelon, butternut squash , breaking down chicken bones etc.)
  3. A serrated bread knife.  For bagels, cakes, tomatoes and of course bread!
  4. A slicing knife.  Carving turkeys, roast, flank steak.
  5. Last but not least, my pairing knife.  Great for peeling and cutting small veggies in a pinch.

If you are looking to purchase a knife take the time to shop for at least one good knife and follow your ABC’s to care for it properly and you will be amazed at how much more you enjoy cooking.

A – Always keep your knife sharp. A dull knife will hurt you much more if you cut yourself  than a sharp one will.

B – Be careful. Hold onto your knife correctly. Never leave it in a sink full of soapy water. You may forget it’s there or someone may reach in not knowing and get a bad surprise. Never ever try to catch your knife if it falls off the counter.  It’s a natural reaction to try catch it but step back quickly and let it fall.

C – Contact The Chopping Block for more information on purchasing a knife or knife skills classes.

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Clair Smith is a Lead Chef's Assistant at The Chopping Block's Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square locations. After being a long time student, Clair joined the TCB team in 2006. When she's not helping people learn how to cook, she enjoys traveling, camping, and entertaining family and friends. Clair lives in Hyde Park with her husband Ken and her cat named 'Kitty'. She loves Mexican cuisine and her "go to" dish of the moment is Pozole.

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It’s Apples

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Graham

There are apples out there. Seriously. Everywhere you look from grocery stores, to markets and fairs and even haunted houses you will find apples. Cider, apple butter, pies, turnovers and caramel apples abound. Apples are undeniably in season and there are countless ways to take advantage of that abundance in autumn.

As fantastic as apple desserts are, the low cost and wide variety of apples we have in late October gives us a great opportunity to experiment with savory apple recipes. It’s the perfect chance to move beyond pork chops and applesauce and try pairing apples to other seasonal ingredients or other autumnal spices.

It’s impossible to go wrong with a trio of apples, squash and bacon… whether the squash is baked whole and stuffed with apples and bacon or cooked off and blended together to form a soup. The flavors bring out the best in each other and interact really well together to form, for me, a quintessential fall taste. If you’re looking to add a little twist on an apple/squash combo try adding a little yellow curry. I think it lends a completely different flavor to the dish without removing its end of year essence.

If you’re looking for something which still plays to the apple’s strengths but feels a bit fresher, try combining apples and fennel. Fennel can be grown year round but it is at its peak in the Midwest from late summer until winter. Its lovely black licorice/anise flavor is nicely undercut by green apples’ tart sweetness. Try them paired together in a salad, or roasted with those pork chops or loin.

For more on the fallest of fall fruits check out the University of Illinois’ webpage or the University of Minnesota’s webpage. By the way, U of M agriculturalists developed the Honeycrisp apple in the mid-seventies so they know what they’re talking about.

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Graham Hoppe was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana and currently lives on Chicago’s north side. In 2007, Graham received his BFA with a concentration in Sculpture and Sound from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After attending Kendall College, working at a West Loop Cajun/Creole restaurant, and producing at WGN radio in Chicago, he found his way to the Chopping Block. He enjoys traditional country music and blues, playing the mandolin and making dinner with his girlfriend, Amy.

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We Appreciate You

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Andrea Miller

It’s been the party of the year at The Chopping Block for the past 13 years. Our Annual Customer Appreciation Day is our chance to officially thank you for your continued support of our local business. It’s a day full of gourmet product sampling, delicious hors d’oeuvres, wine tasting, plus you save 20% off the entire store.

I remember my very first Customer Appreciation Day as a Chopping Block employee way back in 2002. It was a small, intimate gathering in our first location on Webster Ave. in Lincoln Park with lots of familiar faces. Since then, we’ve grown to two locations, including our Merchandise Mart space. Things have changed since those Webster days, but the atmosphere of Customer Appreciation Day remains the same. It’s a time for people who have similar interests in cooking and food to gather together. It’s your chance to meet our staff and reallly get to know us. Hear about our favorite classes, our must-have products and the latest hilarious story from one of our private events.

This year, we are excited to have celebrity Chef and cookbook author Ming Tsai join us for a cooking demonstration and book signing from 5pm-7pm at our Merchandise Mart Customer Appreciation Day on Monday, November 1. You can reserve your copy of his latest book, “Simply Ming One Pot Meals: Quick, Healthy & Affordable Recipes” here. Come earlier and spend part of your day with us. The festivities begin at 10am.

Ming won’t be with us on our Customer Appreciation Day at Lincoln Square on Thursday, November 11 from 11am-6pm, but you’ll enjoy the same amazing discounts, food and wine.

So, get ahead in the holiday shopping game and save 20% off your favorite cookware, ingredients and tools while sharing a laugh with our staff. You just may go home with a few cooking tips as well!

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Andrea has been with The Chopping Block for over 10 years in every role from Chef Assistant to General Manager to Private Event Coordinator and now Public Relations. Her journalism background and culinary school education from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago give her the know-how to spread the word about The Chopping Block's mission to get people to cook. She'll never shy away from a music festival, hot yoga class, beach read, dinner out with friends or a good glass of Pinot Noir, especially when cuddling on the couch with her terrier, Bosworth.

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Beyond the Basics

Thursday, October 21st, 2010 by Tulie

I recently realized how little I knew about a simple Italian dish and how through one less-than-favorable experience with it, had continued to avoid it. This dish—if prepared well—is the delicious and delicate gnocchi.

Like many people, I enjoy almost any kind of Italian food and either prepare it at home or seek it out at restaurants. Gnocchi has not made the list of foods I crave… until now.

As a class assistant at The Chopping Block, I have the good fortune to get exposed to foods and techniques that I might not otherwise experience. For the gnocchi class, I was especially pleased to hear the chef ask each student why he or she chose to take this particular class. The answers ranged from, “I just love to cook and this interested me,” to “I have tried this at home several times and failed miserably.”

Yes, sometimes we fail at something, but through our experiences in preparing food, we can be rewarded when we learn the right technique. Through some simple tips and a little hands-on practice, the results in the gnocchi class were fantastic. Each student walked away having successfully created three types of gnocchi and accompanying sauces, including my favorite, the brown butter with sage.

The gnocchi experience made me think about how many other foods any of us might overlook or not try again, simply because of one unfortunate meal. We can get into ruts with tastes in food and what we cook, and yet as I look at our fall offerings at the Chopping Block, I know classes like our “Culinary Adventure: A Trip to Rio de Janeiro,” or “The Spice Route,” will open up anyone’s tastebuds and perhaps bring fresh ideas to any home cooking repertoire.

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Tulie O’Connor is a part-time Class Assistant at The Chopping Block where she loves the creative outlet of helping people learn more about cooking and learning from the chefs as well! In her “full-time” life she focuses on business publishing—helping/encouraging authors to write books, articles or other publications. When not working, Tulie is usually expending energy in a pool or at a Pilates class and of course planning or cooking her next meal with friends or family nearby.