this is not The Publican

it is not Big Star, or Avec, or even Blackbird.

But it is Paul Kahan. And possibly, in a way you’ve never before seen him.

He’s been hitting up the newsstands lately – in Chicago and beyond. We made our first visit to his West Town spot, The Publican, a month or so ago, and had a decent sampling of pork, among other things and we, along with Wilco’s bassist, frequent Big Star for the tasty bourbon and ginger drinks as well as the pork belly $3 tacos. Check out this link for reviews, if you’re interested.

Outside of Chi-town, he’s all over the foodiesphere elsewhere, and was recently featured in both Bon Appetit and Food & Wine magazines.

In F&W, he was given the challenge, along with some other well-known “hearty” chefs (like Iron Chef Michael Simon, one of my crushes; maybe because he’s bald?!) to create healthy meals that didn’t center on meat. You’d think it would be tricky for such a meatster, but I have a recipe of his to prove it wasn’t that you should most definitely give a try.

Foccacia, one of my favorite yeast breads to make (here’s a rosemary foccacia that’s outta this world), but made solely with spelt flour to make it more dense and hearty, as Kahan would prefer. And topped with winter’s finest: squash and kale. It’s enough to satisfy a light dinner for 4 (or in my world, 2 with lunch the next day) that will make you feel like you did something good for your body, you know, with the leafy greens and bright veggies and all.

Certainly you have some winter squash lying around just waiting to be used, right? And while you might not have kale or spelt flour (unless you made those heavenly banana muffins), they’re both relatively easy to procure.

I doubt you’ll see this little number on any of Kahan’s menus, but don’t let that fool ya – the man can cook.

Have you hit up any of Kahan’s associated spots (the Publican, Blackbird, Avec, Big Star)? Do tell!

Spelt Focaccia with Kale, Squash, & Pecorino
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2010; serves 4

i thought the foccacia was nice the way it was (with spelt flour only), but some feel that spelt and wheat flour can be extra heavy, and with wheat flour i’d agree. if you’re one of those people, try a 1/2 and 1/2 combo for a lighter dough. you may ask yourself, “what’s the difference between foccacia and pizza?”. look above, and check out those air pockets, those bubbles, in the cooked dough – the finger-poking is the secret here, and don’t omit it.

printable version

2 c spelt flour (or 1 c spelt, 1 c all purpose for a lighter focaccia)
One envelope dry active yeast
1 c warm water
1 T honey
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 t chopped rosemary
Sea salt, for sprinkling (do NOT leave this out)
2 c finely shredded stemmed Tuscan kale
1 T fresh meyer lemon juice
1 t crushed red pepper
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto (optional, I added b/c I had it)
8 oz acorn or delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 c grated or shaved pecorino cheese

In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour with the yeast, water, honey, 1 T of the olive oil and 3/4 t of kosher salt and stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until smooth, no more than 1 minute. Oil the bowl and return the dough to it. Let the dough rise, covered, in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. If you make this the day before, let the dough rise and then refrigerate, which will allow the flavor of the spelt flour to continue to build. Let it come to room temparature before working with it.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough, then transfer it to the baking sheet and press it into a 12-by-8-inch shape. Brush with 1 t of the olive oil. Press small indentations all over the dough and sprinkle with the rosemary and sea salt. Let the dough stand uncovered for 45 minutes, until slightly risen. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the focaccia for about 30 minutes, until lightly browned all over.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, toss the kale with the lemon juice, crushed red pepper and 1 t of oil. Squeeze the kale gently to soften it, then let it stand for 20 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 t of oil. If you’re using prosciutto, saute it for a few minutes to get it crispy and then remove and place on a plate with paper towel to drain. Add the squash, season with kosher salt and cook over moderately high heat until golden, 2 minutes. Turn the squash, add the garlic and cook over moderately low heat until the squash is tender, 5 minutes.

Top the focaccia with the kale and squash (prosciutto if using) and bake for 1 minute longer, to heat the vegetables. Scatter the pecorino on top, cut into wedges and serve.

Challah If You Like Hot Buns!

gorgeous challah bread

I’m afeard that I may have started a trend. A trend of me showing off our baking successes (and failures, as you remember from the first episode). I’m really sorry – but when you’re in school 3 nights a week it doesn’t leave much time to prepare bloggable recipes from home.

You may think that Chris is upset about this – having been spoiled for a few weeks while school was out by having fresh dinner AND lunch leftovers practically every day. He isn’t. He may even be happier – happier because he wins brownie points by sharing his treasures with coworkers instead of eating home-made meals in front of everyone while they scarf down a Leany Cuisiney or something less healthy like McDonalds. Now, invite him to Chicken Planet for lunch and my food gets tossed back in the fridge for tomorrow. But at least while Baking&Pastry 101 is in session, he can bring some fresh baked goodies for everyone to gnaw on. And who needs lunch when you have bread anyway?

soon to be english muffinsgrilling muffinsyummy english muffins

Last week, week 2 of the quarter, was two long nights full of yeast, proofing, and scoring. Bread that is. Lean bread. We made baguettes two different ways (with and without fermenting overnight), and I got the pleasure of kneading dough for about an hour for a huge football-shaped loaf of 4 grain bread. Felt like even longer. Needless to say, I had some pain in my right palm for a couple of days. But that bread was lookin’ mighty fine. The tastiest treat of all last week was the focaccia bread with rosemary. De-lish. And I almost forgot – English muffins! My friend Emily blogged about english muffins recently. I’m not sure how she made them without coming to our class but hers looked yummy too! English muffins provide instant gratification – you cook them in a skillet rather than bake them, so you don’t have to stare at the oven and count down the minutes until its ready. If I remember correctly, everything last week came out pretty good. I have a freezer full of bread as proof. 🙂

4 grain breadbaked 4 grainrosemary foccacia

Monday night we finished up our bread-making extravaganza. Instead of lean breads, we kicked it into high gear and made enriched breads. Basically, it means good ol’ fatty bread that have eggs, milk, butter in any combination. We made milk bread, hot cross buns, and challah. Challah is by far my favorite bread. {And no – it is not pronounced challah. The c is silent as any good Jewish person will tell you.} Since we were braiding the bread, we each made our own loaf and did 4 strand braids. I think, one day, I might try to fancy it up a bit and do some more strands. And I’m going to knead with my stand mixer at home – because I can. And because I’m a wimp and I just can’t knead for an hour. The braids look mighty fancy don’t they? And every morsel is a mouthfull of chewy goodness. Take my word for it. If you’re super nice (and live nearby) – you might one day be lucky enough to receive a batch (minus a bite or two…. just to make sure it’s good). OR – maybe I’ll make you some french toast a la Wetzel. Which is essentially – french toast, with challah.

braiding challahready to bakepretty challah

While not the superstar that is challah bread, we did make some other tasty treats. I find it odd that my only memory of hot cross buns is that song. And of that, all I remember is “hot cross buns, hot cross buns” and then something about a penny. But apparently it’s a bread that is made with currants and raisins (sometimes candied citrus) and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Although ours didn’t, they generally have a cross across the top. And when you serve them hot, you get Hot – Cross – Buns. Voila! Have you ever heard of milk bread? Me neither – but we made that too. The buns were made by rolling three balls and putting them in muffin tins. As you can see, we had big balls. Done & done.

dinner rollshot cross buns

For recipes, I’ll post my two favorites: focaccia & challah and will try to post the recipes in the “at home” style. If you’re interested in the other bread recipes, just challah!!


Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th EditionAdapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition

Water – 8 oz
Yeast, fresh – 0.75 oz
Bread flour – 1 lb, 4 oz
Egg Yolks – 4 oz
Sugar – 1.5 oz
Malt syrup – 0.13 oz
Salt – 0.4 oz (2 tsp)
Vegetable oil – 2 oz


Mixing: begin with water and add yeast. Add yolks, oil, and syrup. Add some bread flour, then add sugar, then more bread flour, then salt. Continue mixing and kneading (either by hand or in stand mixer) until dough springs back. (If using stand mixer, mix ~10 minutes on second speed). You may need less or more flour, but do not mix to overdry.

Fermentation: 1 1/2 hours at 80 degrees (an oven that is barely on)

Makeup: Refer to any google site. Here is a good youtube video for braiding a challah loaf with six strands. For class, we did four strands.

Baking: 400 degrees (~30 minutes; but check often with oven light)

Herb Focaccia
Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition

Sponge: water, 6 oz; yeast (fresh) 0.12 oz; flour 8 oz
Flour – 1lb, 4oz
Water 14 oz
Yeast – 0.12 oz
Salt – 0.5 oz
Olive oil – 1 oz
Rosemary & sea salt (to liking)

Mixing: Sponge method – combine water, then yeast, then flour. Do not knead.

1st ferment: sponge for 8-16 hours at 70 degrees

2nd mixing: mix water, yeast, flour, salt (salt last) and combine with sponge. Knead until dough springs back quickly.

2nd ferment: all dough for 30 minutes at 80 degrees

Makeup: Scale at 3 lb for each half-size sheet pan. oil pans with olive oil. roll and stretch dough into pan to fit. if dough does not give, let it rest for a few minutes. proof again in oven until doubled in thickness. Top each with olive oil. with fingertips, poke holes heavily at regular intervals into dough. spring with fresh chopped rosemary and sea salt.

Baking: 400 degrees for ~30 minutes