2 Flatbread for The Golden Globes

Having tried pita for a short rib flatbread-type appetizer recently I wondered why some companies call them ‘pita’ while others say ‘pocket pita’. ALL pita have a pocket. Redundant much? While the pita I bought had very good flavor, cutting them into wedges revealed the double-layers and made eating the appetizer harder than it could have been.

Today I’m using Naan

Flatbread 1: Shrimp ‘scampi’ with white wine poached shrimp, great olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, Manzanilla olives, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and freshly ground black pepper layered on Naan that has been marked on both sides on a gas burner

Flatbread 2: Barbecue chicken with rotisserie chicken pulled and sauced with smoky barbecue sauce, quick pickle red onion, crispy Applewood smoked bacon bits and toasted sesame seeds layered on Naan that has been marked on both sides on a gas burner

Flatbread 2 might get some baby arugula because I have it on hand

Champagne or other favorite sparkling wine is always a good choice when you are serving foods with different flavors that a single wine might not be able to bring together.

Enjoy The Globes, or The Globs which is what they’re called around here!

Clam & fennel chowder

Mother Nature must like Chicago in the world of winter, so the idea of a big bowl of chowder remains a great weeknight option even as we approach the middle of April

The foundation of any good soup is a mire poix (onions, carrots and celery) that is well-cooked to bring out the flavors which in turn flavors the soup

In my version of Clam Chowder, fennel bulb replaces the celery, but less you think “Mr. Celery” has gone mad, fresh celery leaves are included in the saute and the chowder is garnished with the same

If you don’t have rendered bacon fat on hand, cook 3 slices to get 4 tablespoons of fat; then, if desired, garnish the chowder with the diced bacon

Ingredients
4 tablespoons rendered bacon fat
2 cups diced onion
2 cups diced fennel bulb
1/2 cup diced carrot
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons House salt
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
1/3 cup fresh celery leaves, plus additional for garnishing
4 cups peeled and diced boiling potatoes
1 quart clam juice, warmed in a saucepan
8 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups Half & Half
3 cups cleaned and trimmed chowder clams, about the same dice as the potatoes
Pinch of cayenne, optional

Method
Heat the bacon fat in a large Dutch oven until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent. Add the fennel, carrot, thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the simmering clam juice and celery leaves and stir to incorporate. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the carrots are tender, 10 to 12 minutes

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, sprinkle in the flour and whisk to combine and cook for 3 minutes. Add a ladle-full of the stock to the roux (the butter-flour mixture) and whisk to incorporate. Add the roux to the soup and stir to incorporate and simmer until the chowder has thickened, 2 minutes

Add the Half & Half and the clams (and cayenne if using), stir to incorporate and simmer for 2 minutes. Taste for salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne

Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish with fresh celery leaves

Recipe of the week: Cashew rice

Cashew rice is a delicious side dish that pairs nicely with chicken, duck and other water birds, pork and meaty seafood … and it is easy to prepare

Take note that the rice can be steamed up to 2 hours in advance

You can make quick work of removing the spices from the rice once it has been cooked by tying them into a square of all-cotton cheesecloth and securing with cotton kitchen twine

Ingredients

For the rice
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 1/4 cups fresh cold water
2 cinnamon sticks
10 cloves
3 bay leaves
Pinch of turmeric
1 teaspoon House salt

For the cashews
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/3 cup chopped salt-roasted cashews
2 scallions, trimmed, cut sharply on the bias

Method
Place the rice in a fine mesh sieve and rinse until the water runs mostly-clear and transfer to a medium saucepan. Add the measured water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, bay leaves, turmeric and salt and stir everything together. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and let sit, without removing the lid, for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours

Melt the butter with the oil over moderately high heat in a saute pan. When the foam from the butter has subsided add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to pop, about 30 seconds. Add the cashews, stir to gloss and saute for 1 minute

Remove the spices from the rice and fluff with a fork before folding in the cashews and half of the scallions. Transfer to serving bowl and or platter and garnish with the other half of the scallions

Serve Cashew rice hot, very warm, or at room temperature

Leftover Cashew rice, if there is any, can be used for stir-fries the following day or up to 3 days later