FEBRUARY 2017 – The menu at Cindy’s, under the charge of chef de cuisine Keith Potter, changes all the time to keep things fresh and interesting. Potter and executive chef Christian Ragano have deep relationships with a number of local farmers and purveyors and always look for unique, interesting and, most important, flavorful ingredients for their seasonal menu.
Each month, we explore an ingredient that really excites Potter and for February it’s all about Voss Pecans. The Voss family has been working their farm in Carlyle, Ill., for more than 30 years and they sell their product through Local Foods, a fantastic food market featuring locally sourced meats, produce, packaged goods and more. Potter gets a lot of his ingredients through this Lincoln Park food hub, including the Voss Pecans.
Due to their wonderful flavor, Potter enjoys finding multiple ways to use the pecans. He’ll blanch them before simmering them in syrup for an hour. The pecans then get drained and deep fried until a shiny polished candy shell appears on each nut creating possibly the best carnival nut you’ve ever tasted. Then they get prepared in different manners: dusted with sea salt and coarse pepper; adorned with espelette pepper to offer heat and a fragrant aroma. The kitchen team will dot the burrata plate with the candied pecans to add depth, texture and, as Potter said, ” mucho flavor.”
But the preparations don’t stop there. Potter will shave them with a Microplane over gnudi or roasted carrots, but he really loves candying the pecans like a praline where it’s lighted toasted before blending them into a rich nut butter that he’ll use to finish off roasted pork chops at dinner or drizzled over fried Brussels sprouts you may find as a side dish on your plate.
No matter the use, the Voss pecans impart a lot of flavor and texture to numerous dishes so don’t be surprised to see them throughout the menu. Hopefully you don’t have any nut allergies and can fully enjoy the Voss pecans as much as we do!