Making my list of favorite Chicago restaurant dishes of 2011 was particularly divergent from previous years for a number of reasons. 2008 and 2009 were years of exploration. Like the first year you had an income and lived near record stores, your collection went from Dylan, the Beatles, the Pixies, the Clash and every artist on the Singles Soundtrack to obscure singles from Neutral Milk Hotel, the Beta Band, Gomez, and A Tribe Called Quest. The whole world is at your finger tips and everything is new and awesome. 2010 was a year of deep diving and expensive, epic festivals. I had built up enough experience in 2008 and 2009 to know what to look for and had established go to’s that were putting up exciting dishes on a weekly basis. I also had the time, resources, and inclination to invest in tickets to multiple dining events where I could eat 25-30 dishes from the best chefs in Chicago. Then comes 2011, during which there were a number of big developments. Continue reading
Growing up in a hyper-traditional family in Wisconsin, we never once spent Christmas the traditional way. We never woke up on Christmas morning and opened gifts. We spent ours in a car traveling between my father’s extended family and my mother’s. To us, we did not know the difference. Similarly, until we were teens, we did not know that pickled tongue and pickled heart were not what everybody ate on Christmas Eve. Coming up on twenty years from becoming that teenager, I have come full circle after acquiring a few venison hearts from my father. Continue reading
Football fan or not, it is likely that if you turned a TV on during the Thanksgiving holiday in the last two decades, you have heard about Turducken. John Madden took a cult culinary dish and turned it in the American folklore. The turducken is a major league ballotine of a stuffed, boned chicken stuffed inside of a boned duck which, in turn, is stuck inside of a boned turkey. Calvin Trillin discusses the historical trevails of the turducken tracing mainstream turducken production to 1985 at Herbert’s Specialty Meats in Maurice, Louisiana from whom you can order a turducken to be shipped. As you can imagine, these beasts are far too big to have as part of a family meal with fewer than a dozen adults unless you are into days and days of leftovers. Continue reading
Low country cuisine is on the rise. For the majority of the country, no one really knows about “Low Country”. For those from there or married to those who are, we have been hearing about its high points for years. For those people paying close attention to recent food writing, the Low Country culture and cuisine seems likely to be the hot 2012 cuisine. Quintessentially American and featuring some of the finest ingredients native to the United States, there are clear reasons that follows the farm-to-table trend into the limelight. There are few areas from which I would choose a farm’s bounty over coastal South Carolina given the climate and rich soil.
Whether it was in Las Vegas, Chicago, Tulsa, Checotah, or Dayton, I do not remember, but during recent travels while staring off into space in a car, airport, or hotel room or on a run, I thought of making a sausage that combines my favorite elements from one of my favorite cuisines into sausage form. I started toying around with a similar idea making corned beef and cabbage sausage and followed it up with the pavo en mole negro sausage, but those were more meal encasement than something slightly less obvious and something more Spanish. Continue reading
Around this time of year, especially since we had kids, things start to go a little haywire. We are pulled in multiple directions and there are never enough hours in the day to do everything, much less do everything well. With all that I had to do, I outsourced the acquisition of a ham hock to my mother, who was prepping for a visit, when planning for ham hock rillettes.
There is a really great old school butcher in my hometown, Jacobs Meats, which would have lines out of the door if it existed in a place like Chicago, but mostly serves neighborhood folks over 50. In Appleton, most shoppers prefer their meat in a styrofoam/clingfilm cage packaged far away. Likely because of my rushed description of ham hock that I wanted, what I got was a regular pork hock, unsmoked and uncured. I knew that the quality would be high and that this was a very useful cut of meat, but I had no intention of going to straight to stock with it, so I stored it until inspiration hit me. Continue reading