Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ultimate Game Day Chili Bar

Your basic ingredients
It appears that this 2013 post dissapeared from this blog. I received an email request that I repost it again. Since Chicago is a sports city, there is always a need for a "Game Day Chili Bar." Enjoy!    
Before you can build an "Ultimate Game Day Chili Bar" you have to have a great recipe for homemade chili. My Mom had a simple chili recipe using canned Brooks brand "Chili Hot Beans." The beans are already spiced. It is really a very simple chili to make. How you make it depends on your taste.
Browned Ground Beef, Green Pepper and Onions
1-1/2 lbs. ground beef                            
1 small onion chopped fine                   
1 large can (28 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes   
2 large (15 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2-4 cans (12-15 oz.) Brook's Chili Hot beans (to your taste)
1/4 small green Pepper diced
to taste Kosher salt & cracked black pepper
to taste Chili Powder
to taste Cumin 
Open tomatoes and beans
In a large skillet brown the beef. Add the onions and green pepper (optional), salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is browned. Drain off most of the grease from the beef. Add the green pepper and onions and cook until tender.
Add tomatoes and seasonings
Add the crushed or diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to the beef onion and green pepper mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 1 hour and then add the Brooks Chili Hot Beans and continue cooking for 1/2 hour more.
NOTE: The amount of chili powder and cumin that you add will have a great effect on the final chili taste. Use caution and taste often when adding these ingredients. 
May the best team win
To make a really great chili bar you need chili and toppings. Serve chili with bowls of shredded cheese, minced onions or scallions, Frito scoops, oyster crackers, chopped tomatoes, French fries for chili cheese fries, and plenty of hot sauce. 

© TMelle 2013

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day and Corned Beef Hash

I'm still stuck in the breakfast mode. Today, far from the Emerald Isle, if you live in Chicago, then you are automatically Irish and thereby entitled to use all the clichés associated with it. "Top o' the Mornin' to Ya, Kiss me I'm Irish, and Erin go Bragh," just to name a few. On St. Patrick's Day we all turn into leprechaun's, chasing rainbows and looking for our pot of gold.Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket today.
In Chicago, St. Patty's Day is a really big deal. Dying the river green, and the parade are annual traditions. While most people are happy to sit in an Irish pub drinking a pint of Guinness, in Chicago it's a glass of ice cold Budweiser, Miller, Old Style, or any other domestic beer that, like our river is dyed green for this special day. I'm not sure about the long term effects on our body, or the environment. When we were younger, we would go off to the parade and march, that is until the politicians decided that they needed more room to add their floats.
We were dumped after about three years in favor of more politicians trying to expand their voter base. I thought this was suppose to be a celebration of Irish heritage. This year there's a zero tolerance for alcohol  at the parade. Leave it to the politicians to try and stop an Irishman from drinking. Now where was I?
Oh yeah, breakfast! Every year we pick up one or two Harrington's corned beef.If that's not available, Vienna is our second choice. My wife always makes a "New England Boiled Dinner," Aka. corned beef and cabbage, if you're not from the East coast.
Like a good game of chess, I'm always thing one or two moves ahead. When I see my wife making a New England Boiled Dinner, I'm already thinking about how to get more bang for my buck. For the left-overs, if any, I'm thinking about a corned beef on rye, or a Reuben sandwich on St. Patrick's Day, (see last years post)
Allocating some of the left-overs to corned beef hash is a top priority in my house. Begin my chopping the boiled onions. You want to see them in the hash so don't mince them. The next on your list should be the corned beef. Put the corned beef that you will be using for sandwiches to the side. Then work on the meat for the hash. Either chop it with a knife, or run it through a grinder. I like the texture of knife cut over using the grinder in my hash.  
You see where this is going? Next cut your boiled potatoes into cubes, or shred them on a grater. For me it depends on my mood. Cleaning a grater is no easy task, so often I'll just cut it into cubes. Finally it's the carrots. Carrots add a little sweetness to the hash. It's up to you.
Since I'm probably not getting around to making the hash until the weekend, I will bag the separated ingredients in quart size zip lock freezer bags and put them into the freezer until needed. Hash makes a great breakfast side dish for a Saturday or Sunday breakfast.

When you are ready to make the hash, defrost the ingredients, mix them together and season with a little salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and some parsley. Place some butter and oil on a hot skillet or pan, followed by all of the hash ingredients. Cook until the hash is crispy. Check back after the weekend and I'll post pictures of me making the hash. All of this blogging has made me hungry.
Would you like a Reuben?
Maybe just a Corned beef and Swiss on Rye?

You've got to have dessert right?
Addendum to post

As promised I made the hash over the weekend. I pulled the hash ingredients from the freezer the night before St. Patrick's Day and placed them into the refrigerator. 
Starting with a hot skillet, I put 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into it. When the skillet was hot I added the potatoes, onions and carrots until they began to crisp up.
Add the corned beef
I put the chopped corned beef into the potatoes, onions and carrots. Once the mixture began to crisp up, I adjusted the salt and pepper to my taste. Finally added a splash of hot sauce.
Can you smell that?
This is probably a good time to get your eggs cooking. Today we were in the mood for scrambled eggs. While making the eggs we turned burner on the hash to low.
When served I just couldn't wait to take that first bite. Could you? What can I say? It was delicious. If you like ketchup on your hash, be my guest.
Would you like a bite?
From an economic standpoint, the two corned beef briskets served seven people a New England Boiled Dinner, six people Reuben sandwiches and enough has to serve four people as a side. So the next time you have left-over cooked meat, make some hash.
Prime Rib Hash and Eggs

© TMelle 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Going Out For Breakfast

Basted eggs with bacon, whole wheat toast, preserves and whipped butter
I'm going to keep rolling on the breakfast theme since I just love it. When you want a really great breakfast, where do you go? Living in the Chicago land area, there are many to choose from. I have my own list of favorite places that I just love. Deciding which is best is no easy task. My first question is, can I eat here? This decision is determined first and foremost entirely on the cleanliness of the bathroom. If it's not clean, I won't be eating there. The same is true with dirty condiments, or worn out dirty menus are something I look for. If the front of the house is dirty, what does the kitchen look like? 
Visually a quality pork sausage
I also look at the quality of the products served as a direct reflection of how the owner feels about his customers. The type of breakfast sausage or bacon is a good starting point. Are they quality products, or just the run of the mill cheap quality, fast food fare. I also look for places that advertize the products they use in the preparation of their customers breakfast. You can tell from the names, or logos the quality of the foods they are serving.
Iron Skillet sausage eggs hash browns biscuits and gravy
As an example, every now and then I get a craving for pancakes, French toast or waffles. For me to enjoy any of these three choices I need real butter, and real honest to goodness pure maple syrup, not the artificial maple syrup served at most pancake houses.
At least offer real maple syrup for an up charge. Recently I was at a restaurant that was using frozen, ready made pancakes. They're pancakes for goodness sake. How lazy can you get? 
Maybe you prefer a short stack
When it's breakfast that I crave, I will often search out restaurants that offer scratch made meals and fresh squeezed orange juice. Once I have my juice in hand, I'm going to need some really good medium roast coffee. Third on my list of must haves would have to be hash brown potatoes, shredded, not diced or sliced, and please no onions or peppers. It's morning for goodness sake. If a restaurant has corned beef hash on the menu it had better be homemade and not dumped out of a can. I like mine crispy, not steamed or soggy. Is that to much to ask? I detest restaurants that charge a lot of money for their breakfast and then serve you inferior ingredients.
For the pancake lover in you
Every now and then I need some Eggs Benedict to bring harmony to the universe. I just detest packaged Hollandaise sauce, so the sauce has to be homemade.
My favorite restaurants, in no particular order are:
Bob Evans
Walker Brothers - Highland Park, IL
Once Upon a Bagel - Highland Park, IL
Butterfields - Northbrook, IL
Southern Belle's Pancake House - Crest Hill, IL
IHOP - Anywhere
Egg Shell Cafe - Deerfield, IL
Egg Harbor - Glenview, IL
Paul Bunyan - Minocqua, WI
Denny's - Anywhere
Iron Skillet - Anywhere
Scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns
When I'm in the mood for eggs, generally it's two eggs, scrambled over medium, or basted, with bacon, shredded hash browns, or potato pancakes.
Basted eggs, smoked bacon, potato pancakes

Every now and then I get in the mood for an omelet. When I do I'll often order a bacon and cheese, sausage and cheese, or a Denver omelet.
Everyday should begin with a hearty breakfast
I'm a big fan of breakfast sandwiches and it really doesn't matter what kind they are.  Unless I'm in a hurry, I will steer clear of fast food choices. These are easy enough to make at home. While surfing YouTube I saw that you can substitute a real fresh shell egg for the folded cooked liquid eggs at McDonald's. I ordered a sausage egg and cheese biscuit with a fresh shell egg and got it. No extra charge.  
Homemade bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich
When I first heard about chicken and waffles, I just couldn't figure out if it was suppose to be a breakfast or dinner meal. So I was at Cheddar's restaurant one evening and it was on the menu I asked the waiter about it. I told him that I didn't think that sounded good. He asked me if I liked spaghetti and meatballs. I said yes and he said it is just like that. I still don't know if this is is for breakfast or dinner, but it really is good.
Chicken and waffles
Whenever my family went on vacation, it was usually to Woodruff, or Minocqua, Wisconsin. Every now and then my parents took us out to breakfast at Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty restaurant. From the moment you sit down at the tables with red checkered tablecloths and stainless steel place settings, you know that this will be old fashioned country breakfast.
Paul Bunyan's place setting
In a blink the food is coming to your table. Since it was an "all you care to eat affair," my father made sure that we stayed long enough to get our money's worth. For breakfast you got flapjacks, scrambled eggs, camp fried potatoes, baked ham, sausage links, kielbasa, biscuits and milk gravy, donuts, coffee, tea, milk, and juice. I know that my parents breakfast was under ten bucks at the time and the kids prices were based on how old we were. Eating together as a family made this more fun.
Paul Bunyan Breakfast
Paul Bunyan's fresh buttermilk donuts
If you need another reason to enjoy breakfast, usually people eating breakfast are in a good mood, starting a new day with family and friends and enjoying a good meal. It generally goes down hill after that. After breakfast it was back to the lake
Lil smokies breakfast Iron Skillet
Sunday breakfast, especially in the summer, is where antique and collector car buffs go to socialize with other enthusiasts. You never know what you're going to see.
Packard Super Eight - Can you say heavy metal?
Finally, every now and then you're going to see something that you never expected, so get out, smell the roses and enjoy a great breakfast.
Holy Batmobile Batman!
Restaurants I'd like to try. Check out their menus and you'll know why. If you've eaten at any of these locations send your comments:
Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop - Evanston, IL
Original Green Bay Cafe - Winnetka, IL
Hotcakes Cafe - Wilmette, IL 
Yolk Restaurant - Chicago, IL
Ann Sather Restaurant - Chicago, IL
Windy City Cafe- Chicago, IL
Denny's Grand Slam with Hash Browns
Finally if you have favorite family breakfast recipes that you love and would like to share, please click on "Comments" below and leave a comment. If you like this blog and want to help keep it alive, why not sign up to follow this blog. It's free and we never sell our email list. 
Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Preserves
© TMelle 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Basted Eggs

Room temperature eggs and tablespoon of water
If you haven't figured it out by now, I am a breakfast person. Ever since I was a little boy I was told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If I don't have something to eat for breakfast, my butt is dragging until the early afternoon. For me a good breakfast sets the tone for the entire day.
When I think about how I want my eggs prepared, I would have to say that it really depends on my mood. I like my eggs soft or hard boiled, poached, basted, fried, scrambled, or made into an omelet.  Almost everyone knows what a poached egg is, but a basted egg? When was the last time you heard someone order basted eggs? What is that little known cooking method? It is basically a cross between a poached egg and a fried egg, that usies live steam to finish cooking the top of the egg. Basted eggs are a slightly healthier way to enjoy your eggs.
Melt butter in the pan
Requesting basted eggs in a restaurant is likely to be met with a puzzled look on your server's face. It just doesn't happen that often. It's not that they're hard to make, but do require an understanding of the technique involved. 
You're going to need a preheated non-stick, or stainless steel skillet with a little butter (okay I used more), with a drop of vegetable oil mixed with it to keep the butter from burning. You will also need some water to create the steam and a lid, preferably glass to hold the steam and allow you to view the cooking of the eggs.
Slip the eggs into the pan
Once the butter and oil is melted and combined, crack a couple eggs into a glass ramekin. Slip the eggs into the pan trying to hold the yolks closely together. If the pan is hot enough, the egg whites should start to cook immediately. Lightly season the eggs with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Once the egg whites are beginning to set, add about 3 Tablespoons of water around the eggs, give the fry pan a shake to get the water moving around the eggs to all parts of the skillet. The water will begin steaming immediately.
Just about time to add water
Cover the pan and let the steam from the water cook the top of the egg. It helps if the lid is glass so that you can monitor the egg cooking progress to your liking.
The steam off the top starts cooking the top of the egg
Once the egg yolks have a white film on them and are cooked to your liking, remove the lid. The water also disperses the butter and oil from under the egg. 
To serve remove the basted eggs to a plate and serve with 3-4 slices of crispy smoked bacon and one slice of lightly buttered whole wheat toast.
How do you like your eggs?
2-3 teaspoons butter
1-2 drops vegetable oil
2 egg
1-2 tbsp. water
To baste an egg, first heat 2-3 teaspoons of butter and 1-2 drops of vegetable oil in a non-stick, or stainless steel skillet over medium-low heat until hot. Then, crack the eggs into a ramekin or small bowl. Cracking your eggs into a small ramekin or bowl serves two purposes, to avoid getting shells in your eggs and to keep the egg yolks together for appearance purposes, since we eat with our eyes first. If you have a large egg ring, the egg whites will stay round too.
Once the butter is melted and blended with the oil, gently slide the eggs into the pan, and cook about 30 seconds. When the white of the eggs starts to turn opaque and lightly set add 1-3 tablespoons of water around the eggs. Immediately place the glass lid over the skillet to capture the steam, and cook 1½ to 2 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. It’s ready when the white is set and the yolk has a beautiful white finish.
Basted eggs, potato pancakes, apple-wood smoked bacon
How do you like your eggs? If you, or your family have an unusual way of preparing eggs. Please leave a comment below. A friend of mine living in Arkansas has chocolate gravy with biscuits. I just can't understand this paring. If you can convince me otherwise, please leave me a recipe below.
I just love homemade corned beef or roast beef hash with my eggs. I am looking for a great family recipe for those as well. 
Where do you like to go for breakfast? Tell me where you go and why.

© TMelle 2014-15