A bánh mì for verdi requiem

Picnic in Millennium Park for the last Friday performance of the Grant Park Music Festival: Closing Night – Verdi Requiem.  The menu? Bánh mì sandwiches!

I love picnics and sitting outside in the great summer weather to enjoy music and the company of great friends.  Chicago is a wonderful area for all these things, whether it be Ravinia or the free music in Millennium Park, there are so many great venues to take advantage of the trappings of summer.

Today, I decided to make Vietnamese sandwiches, bánh mì, to bring to the picnic.  I have never made these sandwiches before and didn’t bother even looking up any recipes because it was so last minute.  I felt that since I’ve eaten an army’s worth of these sandwiches at various sandwich shops popping up around the city that I could replicate my own version of this delicious sandwich.

I started with a few ingredients I picked up at the store:

  • fresh baked baguette
  • whole roasted chicken
  • cilantro
  • bean sprouts
  • cucumber (english style seedless)
  • romaine lettuce
  • carrots
  • jalapeno peppers
I also had a few ingredients in my fridge/cupboards at home:
  • fish sauce
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • salt/pepper
  • soy sauce
  • sesame seed oil
  • cream cheese
I first chopped up thin slices of cucumber and carrots and fast “pickled” them in a mixture of vinegar, sugar and fish sauce.  I sliced up generous chunks of roasted chicken breast and drizzled them with some sesame seed oil, soy sauce and salt and pepper to taste. As a quick trick, pop the baguette in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes to get it nice and crunchy before making the sandwich. Allow the bread to cool and spread with cream cheese and then layer the chicken, romaine lettuce, pickled cucumber/carrots, bean sprouts, slices of jalapeno and sprigs of cilantro.  Make sure you get rid of excess liquid from the chicken and cucumber (or else you’ll end up with soggy sandwiches!).  Luckily the cream cheese adds a nice layer between the filling and the bread to help it keep during your trek to the park.  Add cracked pepper to taste. Nom Nom!
My friend brought this refreshing riesling from Trader Joe’s.  The spicy and vinegary sandwiches washed down so well with the sweet riesling.  I think I added one too many jalapeno slices because the peppers, the alcohol and the warm weather were making me sweat!  There was also a sweet and crunchy corn/tomato/avocado salad which paired well with the sandwiches.  The pita chips and milano cookies didn’t hurt either!
The weather was so wonderful.  Please don’t leave me summer!
My friends and I are such dorks that we decided to make it Threadless / Woot shirt Friday at the lab/office.  Hooray for novelty tees!
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Eating like a pig @ the girl & the goat…

The Girl and The Goat:

A bunch friends came to visit me in the Chi from SoCal and THE top eating destination on their list was “The Girl and Goat.”  The place is owned by Top Chef, Stephanie Izard (winner of Bravo’s Top Chef: Season 4).  I had no idea of this place (because I usually have my head stuck in lab).   My friends from Orange County weren’t kidding with their self-proclaimed foodie obsession.  A down payment was placed for reservations on a Sunday at 10:30pm over a month in advance!  This place books up fast and for good reason.  The food here is amazing.  We had over two dozen different small plates, bowls and dishes of salmon, beef short ribs, oysters, lobster, chick peas, artisan breads, pizza, salads, cheeses, green beans and sauces…  I must admit, the food is a tad over seasoned, so drink plenty of water!  I was afraid gorging on all this delicious food was going to break my poor graduate student piggy bank, but the bill came out to about $35 a person.  The price was reasonable considering the great service, delicious food and my super stuffed belly.  The service was excellent considering our demanding party of seven and our countless questions about the eclectic menu options.  I would recommend this place to anyone seeking a food adventure and willing to go out of the comfort zone of their bland American taste buds.