I’m a bit behind this week, having just returned from a Chicago city-fix. We crammed so much action into one week that I feel as though I’ve been away for two.
Asides from the obvious such as the amazing architectural river tour of the downtown Chicago skyline, the beautiful beaches, the Art Institute and a wonderful jellyfish exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium – I was able to eat things I can’t find on any menu back in Aspen – for instance, ‘skewered lamb heart with charred tomatoes and spiced figs’ at Girl & The Goat – one of Chicago’s most talked-about new restaurants.
I’m sure that many of you are shuddering right now but let’s face it, it’s just another muscle like a leg or shoulder and frankly it was absolutely delicious. I’m not fainthearted when it comes to eating offal as I was raised on it.
The menu at ‘Girl & The Goat’ is a joy to read and stirs the imagination with many creative dishes such as ’Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face’ and ‘Pan Fried Duck Tongues’ – all beautifully prepared and presented and as far as I could see, there was nothing left on anyone’s plate.
So, I highly recommend ‘Girl & The Goat’ if you’re visiting the windy city as its quite the ‘scene’ as well. If you can’t get a reservation, eat at the bar. They offer a great selection of wine and gastro-wimps can choose from traditional fare such as seared tuna, steamed clams, pork ribs and wood-fired chicken, along with some original and pretty looking vegetarian alternatives. Everything looked mouthwateringly good as it passed by and all their dishes are made with locally farmed/produced ingredients. Judging by what my fellow diners at the large bar were ordering, the more unusual dishes on the menu seemed very popular. The restaurant is open daily and late on Fridays and Saturdays.
However, back to my reality; if you’ve ever needed to put something together in a hurry, this luxurious appetizer is incredibly easy to make. I call it an appetizer but you may not want to eat anything else as it’s rather substantial.
I know you can buy pastry-wrapped brie that you stick in the oven but in my opinion, this version takes hot, fragrant, melted cheese to a whole new level. It’s baked in its own box and you’ll find this always gets eaten, while those nasty pastry-wrapped things always seem to sit there, slowly solidifying.
That’s my observation, anyway. Who needs something covered in processed pastry when you have crusty bread, pickles and hot baby potatoes for dunking?
This recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’ cookbook; it’s stunningly simple and incredibly good. If you’re feeling a bit wimpy, go for Brie but Camembert is ideal.
If you can buy a Camembert (or Brie) in a box that’s been stapled rather than glued together, the box will be intact when you remove it from the oven. A glued-together box will fly apart while baking, in which case you’ll need to be very careful as you transfer the hot cheese to a serving plate.
I’ve yet to try this but if you want to experiment with something even more pungent, buy a Pont L’Eveque cheese in a box; although purists might screech at the sacrilege of baking such a magnificent French stinker!
NIGEL SLATER’S BAKED CAMEMBERT
A whole 5-6 inch Camembert or Brie in its box
A clove of garlic, peeled and halved
A splash of white wine
Boiled baby new potatoes, small dill pickles or gherkins and hot crusty bread
Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400F
Take the cheese out of its box, remove the wrapping (if wrapped) and put it back in the box.
Rub the cut garlic all over the top of the cheese.
Pierce half a dozen or so tiny holes in the rind and drizzle a little white wine into them.
Put the lid back on the box, put it on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbling.
Meanwhile, boil the baby potatoes in sea-salted water.
Using a spoon, break into the cheese that’s now all runny and oozing in its box (or over the plate, if the box flew apart) and serve it with the warm baby potatoes, small cornichons or dill pickles – and plenty of hot crusty bread for dunking.