Taste Of Home and Taste Of Chicago – A perfect pairing

The Taste Of Chicago is the world’s largest food festival drawing over 2.3 million hungry visitors annually.  It is also the largest single event held in Chicago.  This year was the third straight year that the Taste Of Home Cooking School has played a prominent role conducting cooking demonstrations along with some of the best Chefs in Chicago in the Dominick’s “Cooking Corner” culinary tent.  The Taste Of Chicago Festival is held in downtown Chicago at Grant Park right along the beautiful Lake Michigan lakefront and Buckingham Fountain.


I was thrilled to represent our Cooking School again this year and to be part of the Taste Of Chicago festival that I have been personally attending since it began in 1980.  I had two one hour time slots for our show so I demonstrated three great summertime recipes. Our sponsor partner for the event was Gallo Family Vineyards so I was able to provide some great Gallo wine parings for each recipe and then conclude the show making a fresh fruit drink with Gallo’s new Sangria.  It is so much fun conducting our Cooking School in my hometown and it was great to see so many of my family and friends out in the audience.Image

The tent was nearly filled to capacity for our shows and audience members received a gift bag and were also eligible to win one of several cookbooks and door prizes we gave away during the presentations.  I also had the pleasure of working with Mark DeCarlo who is an actor, comedian, author, and fellow foodie. Mark handled the Emcee duties throughout the day and then later hosted his own guacamole making contest during which I served as one of the celebrity judges.  We cooked, we laughed, and we gave away free stuff…..just another typical Taste Of Home Cooking School!

The recipes were a hit and the audiences were very engaged and interested in discovering some new recipes that they could take home and prepare in their own kitchens.  Here is Mark DeCarlo and I making a delicious Mango Lime Pie and spreading the Taste Of Home message:














After the cooking demonstrations were completed, Mark DeCarlo hosted his own Guacamole Contest with three members of the audience competing to win a trip to Mexico.  Each contestant was given a large bowl full of ingredients and about 20 minutes to make the best guacamole they could muster.  The judging panel consisted Matt Knutson, Ji Suk Yi, and myself.  Matt and Ji are the co-hosts and producers of Windy City Live’s “Food Fight” which airs on ABC TV in Chicago.  It was a crazy contest and so much fun.  I hear that American Idol is looking for some new judges….I wonder if they would consider a singing home cook from Chicago?


Here is one the great tasty recipes I demonstrated at the Taste Of Chicago.  It is a delicious dinner option with a killer sauce made with tart dried cherries, port wine, and balsamic vinegar.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  I am looking forward to the start of our Fall show season and boy do we have some great recipes for you.  Until then, remember to “Cheer For Cheese”.

Chicken Paillard with Cherry Sauce & Parsley Rice Recipe

Chicken Paillard with Cherry Sauce & Parsley Rice Recipe

A “paillard” is a slice of meat pounded very thin, then sauteed or grilled at high heat. This version works for a weeknight dinner or a standout for guests. 

Chicken Paillard with Cherry Sauce & Parsley Rice Recipe

  • Prep: 20 min. Cook: 20 min.
  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 3-1/4 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion (about 1 small)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons tawny port wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley


  • In a large saucepan, bring 2-1/4 cups stock and rice to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
  • Meanwhile, pound chicken with a meat mallet to 1/4-in. thickness; sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, cook chicken in oil over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until no longer pink. Remove and keep warm.
  • In the same skillet, cook and stir onion in 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the cherries, vinegar, wine and remaining stock, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half and cherries are plump, about 6 minutes. Stir in mustard.
  • Fluff rice; stir in parsley and remaining butter; serve with chicken and sauce. Yield: 4 servings.

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