Comfort Us with Curry

Brian Huston's curried lamb stew
See below for a how-to photo gallery.

Chef Brian Huston

At home, BRIAN HUSTON whips up a thing he calls refrigerator chili, which is chili made with whatever he finds in the fridge. “When it turns out really good, my family gets mad because I can never remember what’s in it,” says the chef at The Publican (837 W. Fulton Market; 312-733-9555). Similarly, he improvised this lamb stew off a recipe he learned many years ago from his longtime boss, Paul Kahan. It uses Indian spices and Sriracha sauce in an overnight marinade for the meat. The result will amaze everyone you invite for dinner—and you’ll be able to tell them how it’s made.

CURRIED LAMB STEW (Serves 6 to 8)

1. Cut 3 pounds of boneless lamb shoulder into 2-inch chunks and, in a bowl, mix with 1 chopped onion, 8 cloves of sliced garlic, 1 heaping tablespoon Indian curry powder, 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, and 1 tablespoon salt. Cover and let marinate overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat and brown the lamb in batches, being careful to shake off the onions and garlic from the marinade. After you finish browning the meat, set it aside and use the same pot to sauté the onions until translucent. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar, then 1 tablespoon flour. Add 1 cup red wine and reduce by half. Empty one 15-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes into a bowl and crush by hand. Add the tomatoes (with juice) and meat to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until fork-tender, about 2 hours.

3. Stir in one 15-ounce can of chickpeas that have been drained and rinsed; warm through on the stovetop. Scatter pickled raisins over the top (recipe at, drizzle with plain yogurt that has been stirred to liquify, and garnish with sprigs of cilantro.

Pickled Raisins
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
½ cup sugar
1 cup water
1 arbol chili
1 bay leaf
1 1/3 cup golden raisins
3 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
1 teaspoon salt

Pop the mustard seeds over medium heat in a saucepan; add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer until reduced slightly, but don’t allow the liquid to completely cook away. Cool and preserve in refrigerator.


Chef Patrick Fahy

When tossing cubes of brioche with egg and cream for a bread pudding, do not overmix. This is advice from PATRICK FAHY, the pastry chef at Café des Architectes (Sofitel, 20 E. Chestnut St.; 312-324-4063), who explains that too much mixing will break up the bread and produce a dense dessert. His recipe yields a wonderfully luscious version, made even more decadent with a scoop of ice cream.



Brioche bread pudding
See below for a how-to photo gallery.

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. With a serrated knife, trim the crust from a loaf of brioche and save for another use or discard. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes (there should be about 9 cups), and place them in a large bowl. Combine 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon mace, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, and ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom. Break 7 eggs into a medium bowl, add the spice-sugar mixture, and whisk together immediately. Add 2 cups milk, 2 cups heavy cream, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Stir to combine.

2. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes and add 1 cup golden raisins. Gently mix until well coated and then transfer to a buttered 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Sprinkle ¼ cup turbinado sugar evenly over the top. Cover the pan with foil. Bake for 45 minutes; when done, the pudding should be puffed and set in the center. Remove the foil, sprinkle a little extra sugar on top, and broil for a minute to caramelize. Serve right away.


Photography: (lamb stew, bread pudding, Huston) Anna Knott; (Fahy) Esther Kang


Menu for a Crowd: Feasting with the Pros

A winter buffet designed by an all-star squad of chefs—what could be better? We asked Paul Virant, of Perennial Virant and Vie, to assemble the dream team, and each chef kicked in a favorite comfort-food recipe. Cold weather entertaining in seven easy courses:

Chef Chris Pandel

“This salad just screams fall and winter—but it’s still light and fresh. The squash, which you shave into fluffy ribbons, is naturally sweet, and the crunch is surprising.” —Chris Pandel, The Bristol (2152 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-5555)

6 cups winter squash (Long of Naples, butternut, or Long Island cheese pumpkins)
1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
6 mint leaves
6 basil leaves
2 heads endive, sliced through the root end into thin spears
2 ounces Dante cheese
Kosher salt
Lemon juice, if needed
1 cup lemon vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 amaretti cookie

Peel the squash, remove the seeds, and slice into 1-inch-wide planks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the squash pieces lengthwise; you should end up with a fluffy pile of raw squash ribbons. Place squash and endive into a mixing bowl and season with kosher salt to taste; drizzle with vinaigrette. Add the pumpkin, sunflower, and pomegranate seeds, along with the torn basil and mint leaves, and shaved Dante cheese. Toss gently to incorporate the ingredients. Adjust the seasoning and if the squash is bland, add a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it up. Let marinate for 5 minutes and then place in individual serving bowls. Using a microplane tool, grate the amaretti cookie generously over each salad. Serve immediately.

Lemon Vinaigrette

2 cups plain yogurt
3 tablespoons honey
Juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
1 tablespoon toasted ground coriander
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon toasted ground fennel seed

Whisk together the ingredients; add salt and pepper to taste.


Chef Paul Virant

“My grandfather taught me how to make sausage when I was young, so I associate sausage with comfort food. This rich, garlicky pork sausage is balanced with a sweet and spicy pepper relish, fresh arugula, and salty cheese.” —Paul Virant, Perennial Virant (1800 N. Lincoln Ave.; 312-981-7070) and Vie (4471 Lawn Ave., Western Springs; 708-246-2082)

Pork Sausage
(Note: You may also substitute your favorite store-bought fresh sausage, 5 to 6 pounds.)

3 quarts diced pork shoulder
2 heads garlic, minced and soaked in 1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons cracked fennel seed
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 teaspoons salt (about a teaspoon per pound of meat)
Hog casings (Note: The Butcher & Larder sells them—$5 for a 15-foot casing—but call in advance; 1026 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-687-8280. Virant orders his from

Mix all ingredients and let marinate overnight. Fit a meat grinder with a coarse plate and pass the mixture through the grinder into a mixing bowl (Note: Make sure the sausage mixture and the equipment are cold). Using your hands, knead the mixture until it is tacky to the touch, about 2 minutes. Stuff the mixture into hog casings, making 6-inch links. Prick each link with a toothpick and allow to dry overnight in the refrigerator.

Pickled Hot and Sweet Peppers

2 cups fresh hot peppers (jalapeños, hot banana, padrons, or poblanos), washed, seeded, and cut into strips
1 quart fresh sweet peppers (Marconis, cubanelles, or bells), washed, seeded, and cut into strips
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt

Preheat a grill or an oven to 400 degrees. Combine the peppers and toss with olive oil; grill or roast for about 5 minutes. Combine the red wine vinegar, water, honey, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot brine over the peppers. Reserve.

Arugula Salad

2 quarts arugula, washed
1/2 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Pecorino cheese, shaved
Salt and pepper

Toss together arugula, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, and shaved pecorino in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble, grill or roast sausages, about 10 minutes. Arrange sausages on a platter. Use a slotted spoon to spoon the pepper mixture over the sausages, and scatter the salad over the top.


Chef Jason Vincent

“This is basically a big plate of roasted Brussels sprouts with pears, pecans, and sourdough bread mixed in. The pecans from Three Sisters Garden [usually available at Green City Market now through March] are light, flaky, and really porous. You realize that the ones from the store are stale.” —Jason Vincent, Nightwood (2119 S. Halsted St.; 312-526-3385)

4 Bosc pears
1 pound Brussels sprouts
Salt and pepper
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons)
Spanish olive oil (we like Nuñez de Prado)
2 arbol chilies
1 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 cup pecan pieces (from Three Sisters Garden if possible)
A few leaves of soft herbs (tarragon, parsley, cilantro, sage, or whatever is available)
½ loaf of day-old sourdough, cut or torn into bite-size pieces
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice the pears into large cubes, about the same size as the whole Brussels sprouts. Trim the stems and outer leaves off the Brussels sprouts. Mix the pears and sprouts together in a bowl and season them with salt and pepper. Let them sit at room temperature for an hour. In a cast-iron skillet, heat the butter and about ½ cup olive oil. When the mixture starts to foam, add the chilies and raisins and fry them gently for a minute. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chilies and raisins to a small saucepan, then add the sugar and vinegar and boil for a minute; discard chilies. In the same cast-iron skillet, add the pears and sprouts, tossing them in the same butter and oil, and then roast in the oven until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. In a skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pecan pieces, shaking constantly to prevent scorching. Combine the roasted pears and sprouts, some of the raisin-chili pickling liquid, pecans, and sourdough, stirring until the bread has soaked up the liquids. Taste and adjust seasoning; transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with raisins and herbs and, using a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan over the top. Drizzle with olive oil.


Chef Koren Grieveson

“This dish is my mother’s recipe and it’s damn delicious. We lived in Brazil in the late seventies, and this is what we ate. Lately, my mom has been using pork tenderloin and linguica to speed up the process.” —Koren Grieveson, Avec (615 W. Randolph St.; 312-377-2002)

5 cups black beans
1 small smoked tongue
1 pound fresh pork sausages
½ pound Canadian bacon
2 pounds oxtail
1 pound smoked sausages (chorizo or linguica)
2 pig’s feet
1 pound lean beef, such as sirloin
¼ pound lean bacon
1 tablespoon shortening
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tomato, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Pick over beans, then rinse them and soak them overnight in cold water. Soak tongue and Canadian bacon overnight in separate pans of cold water. Next morning, drain the beans, if any liquid remains, and cover with fresh cold water and cook for about 2 hours in a covered pan, adding water as needed. When beans are tender, drain, reserving the bean liquid.

As the beans are cooking, prepare the meats:
Place tongue, oxtail, and pig’s feet in a stockpot or Dutch oven, cover with water, and simmer until tender, about 3 hours. The tongue is done when the skin is easily removed; the meat from the oxtail and pig’s feet should fall off the bone. Set aside.

Prick fresh pork sausages and parboil, about 10 to 15 minutes; set aside.

Place the tongue, oxtail, pig’s feet, Canadian bacon, smoked sausages, beef, and bacon (all the meats except the pork sausages) in a very large pan, cover with water or stock, slowly bring to a boil, and simmer until meats are tender, about 1 hour. Drain, saving the liquid. Combine the all the meats and beans in a large stockpot, adding enough of the reserved liquid to cover. Simmer until meats are very tender and beans are soft enough to mash easily, at least 2 hours. Season with salt.

About an hour before serving, melt the shortening in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic, and the tomato and hot pepper, if desired. Mash 2 cups of beans from the soup with a wooden spoon or mallet, and add to the skillet. Pour about 2 cups of the reserved bean liquid over the mixture, simmer until thickened; add to the pot containing the beans and meats. Simmer about 30 minutes to combine flavors. Adjust seasoning. Serve with white rice and slices of peeled orange.

Special Hot Sauce
3 or 4 malagueta peppers (similar to jalapeños in size, poblanos in flavor)
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup lemon juice
Pound first 4 ingredients to make a paste, or puree in a blender. Add lemon juice and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.


Chef Andrew Zimmerman

“You have this nice roasted pumpkin folded with a warm coconut-ginger-chili dressing and crunchy cashews. I think you could serve it at Thanksgiving—it’s not that far removed from sweet potatoes and marshmallows.” —Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia (123 N. Jefferson St.; 312-441-1920)


1 ½ pounds kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pinch sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
1 to 2 red jalapeño chilies (to taste), stemmed, seeded, and julienned
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup crushed unsalted roasted cashews
Juice of 1/2 lime

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss the squash, sweet potato, coriander and cumin seeds, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, sugar, cayenne, and salt together in a bowl. Spread in a single layer on a roasting pan and cook until the edges are beginning to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. The squash should be tender but not completely soft.

While the squash is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium saucepan. Add the ginger, jalapeños, and red onions, and sauté about 2 minutes. Add the dry spices and cook for another minute. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer; cook until the coconut milk is reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a warm serving bowl, fold the coconut milk mixture into the roasted squash and sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with cilantro and cashews, and squeeze lime juice over the top.


Chef Giuseppe Tentori

“This mac and cheese has no béchamel, so it’s very luxurious but not so heavy. It has Fontina cheese, mild and sharp Cheddars, and a little Velveeta—it’s the secret ingredient.” —Giuseppe Tentori, GT Fish & Oyster (531 N. Wells St.; 312-929-3501)

2 pounds trofie (but any short pasta will work)
1 cup sharp Cheddar
1 cup mild Cheddar
½ cup Fontina
½ cup Velveeta
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shelled edamame (soybeans)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice the cheeses and Velveeta into 1-inch cubes and melt over low heat with cream, stirring often. Blanch edamame in boiling salted water, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cook pasta according to package directions. While the cheese sauce and pasta are still hot, mix them together and add edamame; season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a large pan and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.


Chef Elissa Narow

“Quince is superhard and rough and is not edible raw. But when you cook it, it turns a beautiful rosy color—and whatever you make with it will be pink.” —Elissa Narow, Perennial Virant and Vie


1½ cups flour
1½ cups brown sugar
½ cup rolled oats
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1½ sticks butter (6 ounces), melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Toss dry ingredients together. Add melted butter and vanilla and toss until the mixture is crumblike. Set aside.


6 medium tart baking apples (Cortland, Jonagold, or Braeburn)
4 quinces
2½ cups sugar
½ vanilla bean
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon flour
Juice of ½ lemon
1 cup tart dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, quarter, and core quinces. Bring 4 cups water and 2 cups sugar to a boil with ½ vanilla bean. Add quinces to liquid and poach over low heat until tender. Strain the fruit and cool (save the syrup for another use). Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/4-inch slices. Cut the cooled quinces into 1-inch pieces. Toss the fruit in a bowl with 1/2 cup sugar, salt, flour, lemon juice, and dried cherries. Place in a 9- or 10-inch baking pan. Sprinkle topping over the fruit filling, pressing down lightly. Bake until the topping is golden and the fruit juices have thickened, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped crème fraîche. (Topping and poached quinces can be made one day ahead.)


Photography: Courtesy of chefs


Hey, Kids! Let’s Make Cupcakes

Rachel Glaser teaches classes for kids at SWEET MANDY B’S in Lincoln Park (1208 W. Webster Ave.; 773-244-1174, She reports that Michaels, the national arts-and-crafts emporium, is a great source for baking supplies, including hard-to-find sprinkles, disposable pastry bags, and pro tools. You can buy undressed cupcakes and frostings for home projects from Sweet Mandy B’s. Even easier, let Glaser show your kids how to make these adorable holiday cupcakes (starting December 5; $20 a class).

A Christmas tree cupcake

1. Cut a cube-shaped piece from a cupcake and secure it with a toothpick to the top of your base cupcake. Us­ing a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip, pipe green frosting in circular layers to form the tree.

2. Mini M&M’s and silver dragées make nice ornaments.



Menorah cupcake

3. Pretzel pieces are the menorah!

4. Gently press nonpareils into the edges of your cupcake.



Snowman cupcake

5. Chocolate chips can be eyes and the smile.

6. Cut a triangle from a candy orange slice for a nose.

7. Divide a gumdrop into three pieces for the bow.

8. Sparkly sugar over white frosting looks like snow.



Ornament cupcake

9. Use a gumdrop for the metal top.

10. Secure decorations on dots of piped frosting.


Photography: (cupcakes) Megan Lovejoy