Birmingham Restaurant Week: Now - Feb. 5

- Birmingham prides itself as being the first city in Michigan to offer Restaurant Week, a culinary event that continues to grow in popularity across the state and throughout the country. Birmingham's 11th annual Birmingham Restaurant Week event will feature more restaurants than ever before and is scheduled from January 25 - 29 and February 1 - 5. For a list of participating restaurants, visit

VIDEOS: Get a glimpse at some of the restaurant offerings with our cooking guests. Eileen Sakko from Mad Hatter joins us to create Mad Queen's Chicken; and then Nick Geftos from Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro joins us to prepare a lamb belly ragu. You can find their recipes below.

For a full list of participating restaurants, visit Three-course lunches are $15 and three-course dinners are $30

Mad Queen's Chicken
Presented by the Mad Queen, herself
Makes 4 servings

2 skinless all natural boneless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup drained capers
3 step breading process
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
3 lightly beaten eggs

1.     Split each chicken breast in half so you have 4 chicken breast halves.
2.     Place chicken breast between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder or rolling pin, pound chicken to 1/2-inch thickness. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
3.     Breading Chicken :  Dip chicken into flour to coat; shake off excess. Dip chicken into egg; shake off excess. Dip chicken into panko bread crumbs; coating all sides evenly.
4.     Mix 1 tablespoon softened butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons flour in small bowl until smooth.
5.     Heat 1 tablespoon  olive oil in a heavy large skillet. Add 2 chicken breasts to skillet at a time and cook until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to platter.
6.     Bring wine, lemon juice and broth to boil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in butter-flour mixture and boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in capers, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken.
7.     We compliment this dish by serving it with sliced and roasted portabella mushrooms, roasted artichokes, whipped potatoes, and grilled asparagus.

Lamb Belly Ragu

2 lb lamb belly diced in ½ inch cubes (you can substitute belly for lamb shoulder)
1 vidalia onion small diced
2 carrots small diced
3 stalks celery small diced
¼ C sliced garlic cloves
1 C extra virgin olive oil split into ½ cup portions
2 C red wine split into 1 C portions
2 tsp red chili flake
Herb sachet (herbs tied together with twine in cheese cloth)
5 sprigs thyme
5 sprigs oregano
5 bay leaf
2 TBSP toasted black peppercorn
1 ½ QT whole canned San Marzano tomato
1 ½ C heavy cream
½ C chiffonade basil
Salt to taste when everything is finished

Pasta dough
5 organic all natural egg
500 grams Italian imported "00" flour
Pinch salt
Semolina flour for dusting

For this recipe, it's very important to carefully read through all the procedures so that you completely understand the cooking process.  Look at the ingredients above and make sure each item is cut, measured and "staged" and ready to go before you start any cooking. This is your "mise en place".

Making the ragu…

1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add one of the two portions of olive oil to the pan. Add diced lamb belly to the pan and stir every 2-3 minutes. You need to allow the lamb to render out a majority of its fat, by doing this your lamb will "fry" and brown in its own fat. Once the lamb is well browned and crispy, remove the pan from the heat and drain and discard the liquefied lamb fat, then set the pan down on a secure surface.
2. By this time the pan should still be very hot and you should have accumulated a nice brown "fond" on the bottom of the pan. Now take one of the two portions of red wine and pour it into the sauté pan with the lamb to deglaze the pan. After the wine stops sizzling, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to make sure no fond will be left behind. Set this pan to the back of the stove and it will be used in a later step.
3. Heat 2 gallon sauce pot on high heat and add the second portion of olive oil to the pot. Once the olive oil starts to lightly smoke, add all of the carrots, celery and onion to the pot and stir and scrape the bottom of the pot every 2-3 minutes with a square bottom wooden spoon or spatula. Once the vegetables have lightly browned, add the garlic, chili flake and herb sachet and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Then add the second portion of the red wine to deglaze the pot.
4. Add the pan of lamb belly and red wine to the pot of vegetables and reduce till the wine is nearly evaporated and stir well. Now add the san Marzano tomatoes and simmer for about 2-3 hours on low heat until you like the consistency of the ragu, and the lamb is tender enough for your liking. Stir frequently to make sure the ragu doesn't scortch.
5. Add the heavy cream and chiffonade basil and simmer for another 15 minutes.
6. Taste your ragu and add salt to your liking. Now your ragu is complete.

(Chefs tip: It's defiantly best to make the ragu a day or two before you plan to serve it but it's not a must.)

Making the pasta…

1. Crack your eggs into a bowl and beat them. Set aside.
2. Place flour on a dry food safe wood or marble table in a mound. Make a well in the center of the mound and pour your beaten eggs in the center of the well.
3. With your hands, work all the flour into the eggs very carefully starting from the inside and working your way out until all the flour is incorporated into the eggs completely and a dough ball forms.
4. Now you need to knead the dough for a solid ten minutes. This will give you strong pasta dough which means great texture. Now cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour.
5. Cut your dough into smaller dough balls and cover them individually with plastic and process one small dough ball at a time.
6. Roll the dough out using a pasta roller or a rolling pin to about 1/8 of an inch thick. Then using a ruler and a pasta cutter or a pastry wheel, cut your rolled pasta dough into 12 inch long sheets. Then go back through and cut ¾ inch wide noodles.
7. Dust the cut pasta well with semolina flour so the pasta doesn't stick together. You can then cook your pasta our portion it and freeze it in bundles.
8. Boil 2 gallons of water and season it with salt. Boil the pasta for no longer than 2 minutes and then strain and put the pasta directly into the ragu and finish cooking in the sauce for another minute or two.

***Once the pasta is totally finished the dish is ready to plate and garnish with a soft poached egg, freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and hand torn or chiffonade basil.

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