Posts Tagged ‘duck’


Spanish-Style Braised Short Ribs are Long on Flavor

Friday, October 24th, 2014 by David

There are two things I will always try at a restaurant if they are on the menu: short ribs and duck. While neither one is all that difficult to cook, there are a few key factors that I look for in the dishes. For short ribs, they should tender, flavorful, but not so cooked that they completely fall apart on the plate.

The same holds true for duck legs, be it duck confit or slow roasted duck thighs. If they are serving duck breast, it should be medium rare. Even though most people think of duck as fatty and rich, the breast meat itself is fairly lean and, as a result, like beef tenderloin, can become dry and chewy if overcooked.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends invited me over for dinner to try out a new short rib recipe and never passing on the opportunity to try short ribs, I accepted.

His new recipe was Braised Catalan-Style Short Ribs, which to my surprise, were braised in white wine, instead of red wine and contained almost no tomato. Staying true to traditional Spanish flavors, notes of cinnamon, paprika and almonds were present in the final dish. And yes, they did pass the short rib test: tender, flavorful and not overcooked. In fact, they were so good that I had to make them for myself the following weekend.

Braised Catalan-Style Short Ribs

3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and pepper
2 plum tomatoes, grated, using only the inner pulp
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
1-1/2 cups water
1 sprig fresh thyme


1/4 cup whole blanched almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 slice hearty white sandwich bread
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
8-oz oyster mushrooms

Season the short ribs with salt & pepper and sear them in a heavy cast iron pot in olive oil. Get a little caramelization on them and then set them aside.












For the flavor base, we start with sofrito, which is a generic term for a cooking base in Spanish-influenced cuisine. For this dish, I started with olive oil, some of the beef fat, onions and the plum tomatoes.












Once the onions were translucent, I added the smoked paprika and cinnamon and toasted them for a minute or two until they became fragrant. Next, deglaze with the white wine, making sure to get all the brown bits of goodness off the bottom and sides of the pot (aka fond). Add in sugar, water, thyme, bay leaf and the seared short ribs.

Cook on medium-low heat for 4-6 hours. The short ribs should eventually be tender enough to pull apart with a fork, but not so cooked that they start to turn to mush.












While the short ribs are cooking, I sautéed the mushrooms in a little olive oil and finished with the sherry vinegar. The Picada is a thickening paste used in Spanish cuisine. Lightly toast the almonds and bread and combine with the garlic in a blender, or mortar and pestle if you want to be really authentic. Blend all the ingredients together then add in chopped parsley and olive oil.

During the last 10 minutes of the short ribs cooking time, add in the mushrooms and Picada to thicken the sauce and add the finishing flavor profile. Serve with roasted potatoes and a nice glass of Spanish Priorat.

Note: the short ribs are much better the second day, after they’ve had time to cool in the broth.

Want to learn more about the beauty of braising? Our Back to Braising class covers all you need to know about this slow and low cooking technique perfect for fall and winter. 

David Indriksons is a Lead Class Assistant at The Chopping Block with a background that goes from small scale bistros to large scale catering and everything in between. In addition to a great love of food, he is a self-admitted travel junkie that enjoys hanging out with locals around the world and trying new cuisine. Outside of TCB, he enjoys skating, snowboarding, and playing with his dog, Caesar.


Today is Your Second New Year’s Chance

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by Autumn

Chinese-New-Year-2014-Horse-7新年快乐!Happy Chinese New Year! Today marks the beginning of the year of the horse. Having spent the last several years in China, I am desperately craving all the treats that normally mark this occasion, especially the assortment of candied fruits sweet enough to make your teeth ache.

Returning to the U.S. and returning to cooking and eating American cuisine has been a struggle. When it’s cold, all I crave is 担担面 (dandan noodles), a plate of steaming 饺子 (jiaozi – or potstickers), or 乾煸四季豆 (dry-fried string beans) from my favorite Northern Chinese restaurant. After a long week, I want chopsticksnothing more than to while away my Friday night at 小肥羊, eating hot pot accompanied by bottle after bottle of cheap Chinese beer with my nearest and dearest.

When I feel lonesome or sick, I crave 番茄鸡蛋 (fried eggs and tomatoes), which I ate the first night I arrived in China, and in almost every city I visited, not only because the regional variations were fascinating, but because it reminded me why I went. In times of boredom, I have the urge to mindlessly snack upon pickled plums, crispy Chinese fish, or decadent Beijing duck. And when my throat starts feeling scratchy, I instantly make a cup of hot pomelo tea.

china And now, in the bone-chilling cold of my first Chicago winter in several years, I think of a vacation to escape this cold. Of a trip to my friend Rebecca’s farm in Yangshuo. Of the strawberries, pomelos, and oranges fresh from her family’s farm. Of spicy 桂林啤酒鱼 (Guilin beer fish), capable of heating one’s innards to near inferno level.

Every person and place I remember is tied to a memory of a culinary adventure or mis-adventure, I had the great fortune of embarking upon. The downside of having the loveliest memories of fascinating friends, unique places, and deliciously unidentifiable food, is that I am stuck in a rut. It seems I have forgotten how to cook most foods that would appeal to an American palate. Except maybe bacon – who could forget how to make that?

stirfryHowever, I am in no way alone. This weather encourages us all to carry on in the rut we are accustomed to. Given the cold weather, short days, and general weariness winter inspires, it seems logical to return home after a long day and eat something frozen, premade, ordered out, etc., and hibernate. While it may be easy, giving in to our natural inclinations is rarely beneficial or healthy. Instead of spending a cozy night on the couch, spend a cozy night in one of The Chopping Block’s kitchens, drinking wine and expanding your cooking horizons. Meaning, if you’re a pasta connoisseur, mix it up and try something different. If you missed making your cooking resolutions come to fruition after New Year’s, today marks the start of your second New Year’s chance.

What would break you out of your rut? What sort of food intimidates you? Fascinates you? Confuses you? That’s exactly the kind of food you should be cooking.


Autumn joined The Chopping Block’s retail team in 2013 after spending several years in Shenzhen, China – consuming a range of delicious, strange, traumatizing, and tantalizing dishes – and conquering several bouts of food poisoning. She never attended culinary school, and her non-wok skills are rather rusty, butT she loves to eat! And when she isn't busy consuming a month’s worth of bacon in one sitting, she can be found dreaming of her next globe-trotting adventure, reminiscing about China at the nearest Asian market, perusing the aisles of the closest library, or befriending any nearby animal.


‘Tis the Season for Bubbles

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 by David

Whether sweet or dry, big or small or white, pink or red (yes, sparkling reds do exist), bubbles are a great addition to any holiday meal.

bubblesBubbles go well with all types of food which makes pairing very easy.  The traditional French Champagnes and other Method Champenois wines are beautiful full-flavored, full-bodied wines that will pair with large holiday meals. Prosecco and other Charmat Method wines are great with lighter fare, like a fish sandwich or buttered popcorn. Rose, which got a bad rap in the 80’s and 90’s from overly sweet sugar bombs that were coming out of California, is usually a dry or Brut wine in France and the rest of Europe, that pairs with almost everything. Sparkling reds like Italian Brachetto are a great dessert wine with chocolate and fruit. Every wine producing region in the world has their signature sparkling wine: Champagne in France, Cava in Spain, Espumante in Portugal, etc. and they are all worth a try.

While tasting sparkling wines from around the world, here is a simple guide to pairings. If you’re serving salmon, or any other type of seafood, pair with dry bubbles. Brut Champagne, Cava and Cremant are all viable options. Any kind of spicy food, whether it’s Indian, Thai or Korean will also go with bubbles, but perhaps try something with a little sweetness. For red meats like duck and other wild game, a Brut Rose is the trick. The structure and body of a quality Brut or Extra Brut Rose will balance out the big flavors of the meat, without overpowering it. Just remember to stay away from the Sec and Demi-Sec wines for entrée pairings as those are sweet wines.

popBubbles are also good on their own, and you certainly don’t need an excuse to open a bottle. The French territory of Martinique has the highest consumption of Champagne per capita in the world for a reason: warm weather, beaches and Champagne just go together.

Here are a few of The Chopping Block’s bubbly offerings this holiday season:


Adami Prosecco bin 7024 $15.95

NV, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Nimble and light, with bubbles lifting the ripe peach and melon notes.

Raventos Cava bin 8018 $22.50

2010, Penedès, Spain

Fruity aromas of lemon and green apple with notes of fresh baked bread.

Camille Braun Cremant bin 12122 $22.00

NV, Alsace, France

Crisp, delicate and clean with notes of apple, vanilla and minerals.

Gruet Brut Rose bin 14256 $16.95

NV, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Strawberry, cherry with savory bread notes

Stop in our stores to pick up a bottle of bubbly for your holiday party.

What’s your favorite sparkling wine?

David Indriksons is a Lead Class Assistant at The Chopping Block with a background that goes from small scale bistros to large scale catering and everything in between. In addition to a great love of food, he is a self-admitted travel junkie that enjoys hanging out with locals around the world and trying new cuisine. Outside of TCB, he enjoys skating, snowboarding, and playing with his dog, Caesar.


Tales of a Fourth Grade Foie Lover

Friday, September 20th, 2013 by Kim

Claire at Hot DougsMy daughter will eat almost anything. Now to be honest, she has some “go to” foods just like any kid: pasta, rice and beans and turkey sandwiches, but some of her all-time favorites include smoked salmon, Brussels sprouts and stinky blue cheese.  The latest food on the list: foie gras.  Now most nine year olds do not eat foie on a daily basis. Heck, most 39-year-olds don’t either. Lucky for us, a kid-friendly introduction to foie is only a mile away from our house, Hot Doug’s.

Hot Doug’s is a world famous mecca of encased meat fabulousness.  On many days, the line can wrap around the block, full of locals and tourists alike.  Last weekend, we were in a line filled with tattooed punk rockers getting some grub before another day at Riot Fest, a father and son from England who came to experience the duck fat fries and the alligator sausage and a local family with kids who really wanted corn dogs.

ClairebookOne of Hot Doug’s famous specials is a duck sausage with truffle aioli,  foie gras and fleur de sel.  This was my in to introduce foie gras to my nine year old.  She already loves truffle after eating a ton of popcorn made with truffle salt, so it was easy to convince her to split one with me.

ClairewithdogAfter waiting in line with a book, we settled in for a delicious late afternoon meal.  We ordered a corn dog just in case the other tastes were a bit much for a nine-year-old palate, but I shouldn’t have worried. The fourth grade foodie came out. The minute Claire bit into our shared foie dog, her face lit up.  She asked “Why can’t we have this every day?”

We also shared an Apple, Pear and Port Wine Elk Sausage with Cherry-Apricot Mustard, Double Crème Brie Cheese and Pâté de Campagne.  She loved that one as well.  All and all, a successful gourmet experience during a day filled with making friendship bracelets, a sleepover at a friend’s house and a little bit of homework.

What’s your favorite sausage from Hot Doug’s?

Kimberly Schwenke has been a chef instructor at the Chopping Block since 2011 when she took a leap from the restaurant kitchen back to school. Before teaching others and taking classes herself, she worked as a pastry chef for over ten years in hotels and restaurants in Chicago and North Carolina. When Kimberly is not teaching or cooking with her daughter Claire, she loves to explore Chicago by bike or train, eat new things and plan her next pie.


Let’s Talk Pork Belly Cooked For Six Hours in Duck Fat

Friday, April 5th, 2013 by Bailey

Right now, I’m sitting at my desk eating Alaskan-sourced king crab and salmon. (No, I am NOT sharing). The sun is shining brightly, which is a giant tease because it looks like it should be warm outside. My blog is due today, and I’ve spent the last hour trying like crazy to figure out what to write about. So we’re going to talk about pork belly slow cooked in duck fat. Why? Because it’s way cooler to discuss pork than it is to discuss me sitting at my desk and pondering my belly button. That’s a known fact.

Ad HocYou all should know that I have a little bit of an unhealthy obsession with Thomas Keller. Let’s face it. Chef Keller is cooler than 99% of the world population (including me). When I bought my first Keller cookbook, I got that same giddy feeling that you get when you meet a cute boy. In fact, when I got home from Borders, I was so excited that I took mass quantities of unnecessary photos– because I couldn’t believe I actually had a copy of Ad Hoc at Home in my house. (Let’s just hope that the next time I have a boy in my house, I don’t take 500 unnecessary photos of him. It might not turn out well.)

Pork Belly Brine

Pork Belly Brine

About halfway into this cookbook, Keller features a recipe for Pork Belly Confit. In layman’s terms, this is pork belly that is brined overnight and then slow cooked in loads of duck fat for what feels like 85 years. After the braising process is complete, the pork then sits in the fridge (while still soaking in fat) overnight. And finally, after all is said and done, the excess fat is removed and the pork is seared to a golden brown deliciousness.

Pork Belly Braise

Pork Belly Braise



First, let me just tell you that the experience of going up to the butcher and asking for a slab of pork belly and a giant tub of duck fat is one that you will never forget. Secondly, the experience of making this dish (and spending about 4 full days from start to finish) is wildly gratifying and almost meditative. When done properly, pork belly confit is juicy, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and will stop your friends, family, and neighbors in their tracks. I can guarantee you that they will be licking the plates once it’s all gone.

Pork Belly Complete

Pork Belly Confit

Have any of you ever created a dish that you loved so much that you dream about it in your sleep? Please don’t hesitate to share! I always love to hear your stories!   

Bailey Phillips never admitted to being normal. In fact, she can't help but wonder if the fact that she slammed her bike into her family's wooden mailbox as a child helped contribute to her being a little off. When Bailey is not booking lovely Chopping Block events for clients, you can typically find her creating meals for friends and family, meowing at her cat, or having outlandish dance parties. Bailey will also never pass up an SEC football game or a glass of Barolo... ever.