Thursday, November 10

Next Door Chef: Chicago

A few weeks ago, I joined a number of guests at Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef: Chicago, an exclusive holiday-inspired dining experience. It was a truly unique evening hosted by acclaimed Chicago chef Jason Vincent of Giant. Chef Vincent was joined in the kitchen by a beginner cook, Cara, who he showed how to prepare a restaurant-quality meal using various Morton salts. The coolest part? The whole event was held right in Cara’s apartment in Chicago's Wicker Park Neighborhood. That’s right, Morton Salt transformed Cara’s apartment into a one-day-only pop-up restaurant.

Jason Vincent
Chef Jason Vincent
Credit: Morton Salt

Morton Salt
Cara's

Upon arrival to the restaurant (cleverly named Cara’s), I was greeted by the hostess and directed to the bar where I picked up a gin-based margarita dusted with a Morton Kosher Salt rim. I joined other Chicago bloggers in the cozy restaurant adorned with navy and gold accents. It was pretty incredible to think we were sitting in someone’s apartment - it really felt like we were at a hip Chicago spot. We also learned that our dinner experience was being filmed for a television commercial that is on The Food Network.

Morton Salt
Morton Salty Rita

Morton Salt
Morton Salt's Next Door Chef Pop-Up Restaurant
Credit: Morton Salt
After our brief cocktail hour, we took our seats to enjoy the delicious three course meal. The goal of the event was to highlight how the proper use of salt can really transform home-cooked dishes. We began with Brussels sprouts with pear, raisins, nuts, ginger, pecorino, and Morton Kosher Salt and Sea Salt. This was one of my favorite dishes - it had a nice balance of bitter and sweet, and the salt blended in seamlessly with the sprouts.

I’m a big fan of Morton Kosher Salt especially - I love its texture, especially when used on top of freshly baked bread like baguettes or soft pretzels. It’s also easier to sprinkle kosher salt evenly since you can see the larger salt granules. 

Morton Salt
The Full Menu

Morton Salt
Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino Crispies
Credit: Morton Salt
The second course of our holiday-inspired meal was brined roasted turkey with spicy rice, and a side of sweet potatoes. The turkey was extra tender (that’s brining for ya!) and I loved the spicy rice. Even though the rice was spicy, it was totally unexpected to have that hint of spice from Thai chili combined with the turkey. From now on, I want spicy turkey at every Thanksgiving!  The sweet potatoes had a secret ingredient that really boosted the overall flavor profile: anchovies! OK, there was also bacon, Parmesan, maple syrup, and butter, so it was comfort food at its finest.

Morton Salt
Roasted Turkey with Spicy Rice
Lastly, we enjoyed oven-fresh chocolate chip cookies garnished with orange zest, raw sugar, and Morton Sea Salt. The cookies were uber thin which allowed for a crispy edge and chewy middle. I loved the flaky Morton Sea Salt on top that added a slight crunch and a nice flavor contrast with the orange zest. Check out the recipe at the end of this post if you’re interested in making these buttery cookies at home!

I had a great time being a part of the first-ever Next Door Chef event, especially in such a cool setting, and with one of Chicago’s biggest chefs! If you’re interested in hosting your own holiday meal, you can go to MortonSalt.com/NextDoorChef to download your own hosting kit complete with recipe ideas using Morton Kosher or Sea Salt.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Morton Salt

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tsp. Morton Kosher Salt
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
8 oz. butter (cut into cubes)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. chocolate extract
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cup chocolate drops (large, 58% chocolate)
Sugar in the raw for garnish
Large sea salt for garnish
Orange zest for garnish

Directions:

1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the salt, both sugars, butter, and molasses. Cream on high until the butter is light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl frequently.

2. Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed.

3. Add the extracts.

4. Sift together the flours and baking soda; add on low speed. Mix until just incorporated.

5. Add the chocolate.

6. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

7. Place dough in large balls on a baking pan with plenty of room for them to spread. Flatten to 1/2" and garnish with salt, sugar, and orange.

8. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool completely.

9. For crispy cookies, bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

10. Finish with coarse sea salt.


Note: This post is sponsored by Morton Salt, however all opinions expressed are my own.

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