Fourth of July means a lot of things to a lot of people. Spending most of my mid to late twenties and early thirties with a dog then kids, it rarely meant huge fireworks. In recent years, it has meant a trip to a cabin on the lake and cooking projects which seemed to be born from the idea of creating more work than needed. Some, like the bone-in brisket and BBQ porchetta di testa, were hard fought victories. Some, like burying a cow’s head in underground coals, were massive defeats. Going into this year’s vacation, I wanted cook something over wood fire and not bury anything in the sandy soil of Northern Wisconsin. Continue reading
After being disappointed by several new highly regarded, cheffy cookbooks over the winter, I decided to pull in the reins a little and look to some of the classic teaching cookbooks – I mean, I could not stop buying them altogether. In an earlier post, I referenced the Good Cook series as great resources, so I picked up a rare UK only edition on Game. Searching for old cookbooks reads a bit as I was record collecting and it is not entirely far off. There is a collection aspect to it. There is the thrill of the hunt, like record collecting. And like collecting classic records, the content is, in many cases, timeless when you hit on some great books. When I was searching for the Good Cook “Game” book, the Foods of the World series kept coming up in searches. Like the Good Cook series, it is a Time-Life series, but from earlier on - the late 1960s/early 1970s. When I looked into the books, it seemed the be encyclopaedic – 54 volumes with narrative and recipes. I found a used complete set online for a few bucks per book and picked it up in short order. Continue reading
If you read enough about food, and I read far too many things about food, certain things begin to stick in your craw. I understand you might still be thinking about your meal again. For the third week in a row your mind is blown? You notice certain writers lean on the same crutch over and over again. You notice phrases like “figured out what men crave”. Continue reading
There are foods which you go out of your way to eat. A canele from Bad Wolf coffee, churros from Masa Azul, and tots from Nightwood are a few for my family. For me, there are also a few. One is pozole from Butcher & Larder. Driving a half hour for soup is something that requires a certain dedication, but I am nothing short of dedicated about B&L’s pozole (think “Faithfully“). Being short sighted, I never buy more than a quart when Chris and Rob make a batch. With the Chicago weather hovering near zero for basically a whole month, I was left without pozole for most of it. Continue reading
Chef Mark Mendez runs the kitchen at his West Loop restaurant Vera. It is no secret that Vera is one of my favorite restaurants in town. Food is simple without being simple. Complex flavors and textures are everywhere, but nothing seems fussed over and no extra ingredients are strewn across the plate. His philosophy of keeping things simple and making sure everything included is high quality and necessary inspired most of my decisions in my kitchen design project and one of the first things cooked in the kitchen, these beef tongue and caper sausages, were inspired by a signature Mendez dish – the Beef Tongue Pincho. Continue reading
Sometimes the things I throw on the smoker are fancy and sometimes they are silly, but in the case of bacon trotter gear, the output is of maximum utility and minimum beauty. It combines two staples in my kitchen, bacon and trotter gear, into a single delicious deli container full of the actual foodstuff that makes everything better, gelatinous pork stock, amplified by the flavor that everyone claims makes everything better, bacon.
If you live in or have spent time in Chicago, you likely know about Italian Beef. If you don’t or haven’t, you may not. It is not actually Italian and it is only beef in theory. There is not anything particularly beefy about it. It is usually comprised of an ultra-lean cut of beef that is cooked medium, then shaved on a deli slicer, and then cooked again in its juices. Then it is shoved into a hard roll, topped with giardiniera, and dipped back into the juices. To me, it is a monstrosity. Continue reading
This project has been in the hopper for years, literally. Three years after attending the first butchering demo from Rob Levitt, done while at Mado, and following with the “Dueling Testas” demo, I have deboned a pig’s head. What seemed impossible after watching Rob do it at the demo is not only currently possible, but something that with a little practice, everyone should be doing. Continue reading
Each week this Spring, it seems, a new flashy cookbook is released from one of the world’s cooks. We are talking about some of my favorites: Cosentino, Bloomfield, Pelaccio, Aduriz, but with limited time and resources, how can I choose? Damn that I have to choose, but I do. For me, instead of choosing between these new cookbooks, I have decided to wait to be gifted these books (given a May birthday and Father’s Day, there is still time) and to back fill my collection with some more classic cookbooks for cents on the dollar. Continue reading
In the past. when looking at recipes that included smoked pork neck bones, I always asked myself if bacon could be substituted bacon for the neck bones. Smoked pork neck bones are not easy to find – they are a humble ingredient and most groceries do not get whole animals, so no neck bones. After a meal cooked over the past weekend, I now know that the answer is no, you can’t substitute them, and yes, you need to seek them out.
Bacon and pork neck bones are not even close. Both pork and both smoked, but then they diverge. The reason is texture and is hard to pinpoint at first. Then you wake up to pack the leftovers for work and a deli container of the okra soup falls from your hand and you find that the liquid has solidified from the rich gelatin in the neck bones. That texture softens when heated, but that added richness never goes away. Once you have the dish with it, the same dish without would never do. Continue reading