Tag cookbook clubs

Parties That Cook’s Chicago Team Cookbook Club: Chicago Cooks: 25 Years of Chicago Culinary History

The Parties That Cook Blog has seen some wonderful guest posts in the past. We’re going to keep the tradition going with a recap of the most recent cookbook club meeting from our Chicago office! This installment of our Chicago Team’s Cookbook Club is brought to you by Chefs Heidi, Brandy, Liz and Molly. Thanks ladies!

After having to reschedule our book club due to the great snow storm of 2011 that hit Chicago a few weeks back, the PTC girls gathered at Brandy’s house. We were all very excited to review the book, Chicago Cooks: 25 Years of Chicago Culinary History and Great Recipes from Les Dames d’Escoffier. Unfortunately, our enthusiasm was quickly deflated.

We started with Heidi’s choice for the first course: Spicy Crab and Shrimp Rolls with Salsa. This was probably the best recipe that we reviewed because it was fairly easy and the flavors were quite good (paprika, saffron, cayenne and cumin). We often wondered if the recipes had been tested because the cooking times were incorrect on several recipes.  It took longer to cook these than the recipe indicated. Heidi also suggested doubling the cooking liquid and reserving it for dipping the rolls which would have been much better than a jarred salsa.

For our entrée, Brandy made Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Rainbow Trout. This was a very simple recipe. The whole fish was stuffed with rosemary and wrapped in bacon. It was difficult to serve, but thanks to Molly and Brandy’s fabulous filleting abilities, we managed to plate it up. This is definitely not the recipe to serve when you want a beautiful presentation. We all agreed that it may have been easier to fillet the fish before cooking and wrapping each individual piece with bacon.

Alongside the fish, we served Liz’s Onion Flan. This recipe was completely off on yields and cooking times. Aside from that, it was your basic egg custard dish – similar to a quiche.

For dessert, Molly, our resident pastry Chef, made a decadent Chocolate Hazelnut Cake. We were all very impressed when Molly unveiled her cakes. They were worthy of sitting on the shelves of the finest bakeries in town. Molly later confessed that she dolled up the cakes that otherwise would have looked like hockey pucks (literally). She added a lovely Raspberry Buttercream, Raspberry Sauce, fresh Raspberries and a chocolate disc that she brought back from her recent trip to Switzerland. The cake recipe from the book was good, but Molly’s additions elevated it to 5 star restaurant quality! It was a decadent but surprisingly light dessert. To quote some of the girls, “It didn’t feel like a gut bomb”.

I think we all agreed that this Chicago Cooks book didn’t “cook” up enough interest to merit a purchase. Though not every cookbook reviewed is a success, this doesn’t stop us from wanting to try more in the future! Look out for the next guest post of Parties That Cook’s Chicago Cookbook Club! For more ideas on cooking parties in Chicago, or for hands-on cooking classes in Chicago, you know Parties That Cook is your go-to company!

Parties That Cook’s Long Awaited “February” Cookbook Club: Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen

The Parties That Cook office team came together last week for February’s Cookbook Club. Yes, it was in March, but February was one short and action-packed month!  Michelene selected Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen, in honor of the brightly colored piñata that has called our office home for the past month.

Bayless is a renowned chef and restaurateur with 6 popular cookbooks under his belt. Authenic Mexican, the earliest of these cookbooks, was published in 1987 (before someone in our office was even born!), and Fiesta at Rick’s, the most recent, in 2010. Needless to say, everyone one was excited to try Mexican Kitchen!

Initially intimidated by the endless recipes found in the cookbook, some just flipped to a random page and let fate pick their recipe. The resulting menu was remarkably well-balanced:

Rustic Jicama Appetizer – Beth made this beautiful dish just before serving, and it was SO fresh and crisp!

Topolo Caesar Salad – We could definitely taste the Mexican influence in the tangy flavor of Traci’s salad!

Tortilla Soup – Michelene’s dish was absolutely delicious. Everyone loved the soup, making it a popular lunch option for the few days it lasted beyond this lunch!

“Drunken” Pintos with Cilantro and Bacon (Frijoles Borrachos) – Crissy thought there was too strong of an alcohol flavor even after cutting the amount called for in the recipe, so she added more beans. The finished dish was one of the group’s favorites!

Oaxacan Black Mole with Braised Chicken (Mole Negro Oaxaqueno) – This incredibly involved recipe took hours of Carolyn’s weekend, but she was up for the challenge. Bibby raved that it was the best mole she had EVER had!

Crusty Chayote Casserole with Poblanos, Corn and Two Cheeses – Bibby took a few liberties with the recipe, per usual. Her dish, which included many more/different ingredients than the recipe called for (sorry Rick), was rich and delicious!

Warm Cajeta Pudding with Fresh Berries – Rosie noted that this was another time consuming recipe. Had we not already eaten SO much good food, I’m sure we would have eaten the entire dish. This dessert left me with cravings for days after my first taste!

This Warm Cajeta Pudding with Fresh Berries would have paired perfectly with this deliciously sweet recipe for Dulce De Leche Ice Cream!
For other crave-worthy  dessert recipes, check out our Dessert Recipe Library!

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 egg yolks

Dulce De Leche:
Immerse the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water. Cover completely with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 1/2 hours, replenishing the water as necessary to keep the can always covered in water. Remove from heat and let cool slightly in the can. Open the can and you will have fresh dulce de leche.

Ice Cream:
In a heavy saucepan, scald the cream and milk with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup of the sugar until pale. Gradually whisk hot cream/milk mixture into blanched yolks. Add the whole can of the dulce de leche. Mix well. Return to saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a spoon when a finger is drawn across it (about 7 minutes) or when the temperature reaches 160ºF (do not boil!). Strain into a bowl over an ice bath. Whisk to cool quickly.

Process custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Freeze and Serve: Place in the freezer in an air-tight container. Allow the ice cream to set completely before serving (1 –2 hours).

Makes 1 Quart