aigredoux and Sticky Toffee Pudding
THE COOKING GODDESS DOES AIGRE DOUX
By: Laura Hansen
“Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what’s for lunch.”
Orson Welles, actor, director (1915-1985)
My friend Allan had been bragging to me about Aigre Doux for a few months and I was ready to give it a try. Nestled corner of Kinzie and Franklin – a bakery (that was empty of pastry) greets you upon entering. At Aigre (sour) Doux (sweet), the ambience is minimalist, open and injects hints of simple elegance. Lined with Brazilian cherry wood and soft lighting, viewing the dining area – I rarely notice the wait staff buzzing about.
The husband and wife duo of Executive Chef Mohammad Islam and Pastry Chef Malika Ameen created their culinary magic at places like the Ritz Carleton/Chicago and Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles before launching Aigre Doux in early 2007.
The offerings kick up the culinary adventure, but also have classical roots. The French influence certainly is present (Steak Frites, Haricot Vert Soup), but infused with some contemporary American flair (Buffalo Ricotta & Corn Ravioli).
The appetizer choices are robust – ranging from traditional faire like Caesar salad, to ahi tuna or a roasted beet salad with fresh mozzarella and candied lemon. There are some pizza choices as well – ranging from a simple Greek offering with lamb, olives and feta to a tuna with wasabi cream and shisho.. We settled on the poached shrimp salad, with herbed butter lettuce, avocado and a tart champagne vinaigrette. The shrimp was luscious (although the serving was only two for each of us – I could have easily feasted on more) – the magic was certainly in the mysterious shrimp poaching liquid.
Although our waiter highly recommended the Grilled Chicken sandwich with avocado and herbed goat cheese – the chicken was dry, and I could find greens, but no goat cheese. The clear winner was Allan’s pan seared halibut – a beautiful piece of fish rolled in a heat infused rub with a splash of tomato vinaigrette. The fingerling potato accompaniment was a nice addition – sautéed baby moist delights.
Kudos to pastry chef Malika Ameen for her sticky toffee pudding offering. I’ve been pining for a sampling of sticky toffee pudding ever since it was under consideration as a new potential flavor for Hagen Dazs. It was served warm, with a dollop of Devonshire cream sorbet and citrus segments. I’m certain the clean plate club wins every time with whimsical dessert offerings such as Crème Fraiche Cheesecake and a malt infused custard with a hazelnut Kit Kat.
Sticky toffee pudding
8 ounces dates, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups packed)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter spring form pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter parchment. Place chopped dates in small bowl. Pour 1 cup boiling water over dates and let cool, about 1 hour.
Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl to blend. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add half of flour and beat to blend. Add remaining 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Add remaining flour and beat until blended. Combine instant coffee and baking soda in small bowl. Pour into date mixture, stirring to dissolve coffee granules. Add date mixture to batter and beat to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
Cool pudding until just warm. Unmold; sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream and Caramel Sauce.
Makes 12 servings