One of the things that makes Chicago such a wonderful place to eat, is that our chefs now fully immerse themselves in the seasons. We get to eat local strawberries in June, Michigan peaches in August, and this time of year, well, we eat a lot of house-made sausage, chorizo and cured meats. Go see what Bruce Sherman is doing on any given week over at North Pond, and I'll bet you the menu is based on whatever he found at the Green City Market; same goes for Rob Leavitt at Mado, Michael Sheerin at Blackbird and now, John Manion at the newly-revamped Branch 27. As I've written about in this space before, Manion has, as of late, been a chef-for-hire. He's set up the menus at the Old Oak Tap, altered the Milk & Honey Bakery menu into Cippollina, transformed Goose Island Brewery's menu and most recently, completely gutted the something-for-everyone menu at Branch 27, and honed it into a focused document that encourages repeat visits.
While we freeze our collective asses off this month, take some respite in Manion's cassoulet (ca-soo-LAY). This traditional French stew of white beans, sausage, lamb and pork is as comforting on a chilly day as a pair of flannel p.j.s and a down duvet. The cast-iron crock is actually so hearty, you'll need a friend to help you polish it off. Unless, that is, you've been shoveling snow all day. In that case, all bets are off.