Saturday, May 23, 2015

Maxwell Street Polish

Another Chicago tradition and definitely comfort food if you've ever had one is the Maxwell Street Polish. The Maxwell Street neighborhood is considered Chicago's near West side. It is noteable as the location pf the Maxwell Street market and the birthplace of Chicago Blues and the Maxwell Street Polish Sausage (MSP).

If living in or around Chicago and needed a set of tires, a car radio, or a pair of speakers, you could usually find them at the Maxwell Street Market. It was here that I enjoyed my first Maxwell Street Polish. So what is a Maxwell Street Polish? I thought you'd never ask. If you can't make it to the market, you can find the MSP almost anywhere in the greater Chicago land area. In some parts of the city, the Maxwell Street Polish is as popular, or more popular than the Chicago-style hot dog.
Not a traditional MSP
To make your own Maxwell Street Polish at home you're going to go shopping. The first thing you will need is some all beef Polish sausages. In Chicago you can easily find Vienna's beef Polish sausages.
Once you get the sausage you must decide how you will cook it. I've has them deep-fried, grilled, steamed and then grilled.
Need a lot of grilled onions
Grill a lot of onions in a little oil and butter.   While the onions are cooking, prepare a good quality plain, poppyseed bun, or a hoagie roll. For the condiments,  a MSP has grilled onions, mustard and sport peppers.

Grill If you don't like the taste of a Polish Sausage you can always have a Chicago style hot dog. Fries always come with a Maxwell Street Polish, or a Chicago-style hot dog.  
As I was writing this post I thought about another one that I wrote about the spiral cut hot dogs. I thought that this would be a great way to cook a Polish. To see this post follow this link:
I often think that my brother living in the South and I share a common craving for good food. As I was writing this post he sent me a text with the following picture attached:
Living in the Memphis area, or as I call it the epicenter of barbecue country, he still has his "Chicago-style" cravings from time to time. This "Chicago Style Hot Dog Kit" was on his porch when he arrived home from work. The Vienna kit contained:
1 - 16 pack (6" 8 per lb.) Vienna® Beef Skinless Hot Dogs
2 - 8 packs Mary Ann Poppy Seed Buns
1 - 12 oz. jar Vienna® Sport Peppers
1 - 12 oz. jar Vienna® Bright Green Relish 
1 - 9 oz. jar Vienna® Yellow Mustard
1 - 6 oz. shaker Vienna® Celery Salt
NOTE: What was missing? To make your very own Chicago-Style Hot dogs you're going to need to buy some dill pickle spears, minced onions, and thinly sliced tomatoes.
My brother informed me that the cost to cure his Chicago-style craving was about $3.50 per hot dog. Cheaper than most Chicago hot dog stands. So apparently you can satisfy your Chicago-style craving whenever you get the urge.
No visit to Chicago would be complete without mentioning the other Chicago hot dog called the "Francheezie." Check out the Francheezie hot dog post;

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kentucky Derby, Mint Julep, Hot Brown, and Bobby Flay

Going to the Kentucky Derby and drinking mint juleps has always been on my bucket list. I've never actually made it to the derby, I have made it to Arlington Park race track in Illinois. Going to the track is a great way to spend the day, catch some ray's, and possibly win a couple of races if you're lucky. I will settle for breaking even.
Recently, while searching Bobby Flay on YouTube, I came across an episode where Bobby was challenging the Castro brother's to a "Kentucky Hot Brown" Throwdown. After watching this episode, I knew I just had to make the Hot Brown. If you would like to see this episode, head over to YouTube, or click on this link:
The Hot Brown apparently originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville Kentucky in the 1920's. I went right to the source to try and get the original recipe. Just as I thought they published the recipe on their website.
Since I love turkey and the Kentucky Derby is May 2, I thought this would make a great post for May. You're going to need a few things to make the Hot Brown.
1-1/2 tablespoons salted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper 
sliced roasted turkey breast, slice thick
4 slices of Texas toast, crust removed
4 slices of bacon
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
Arrange bread triangles in pan and tomato halves
Note: What ever you do, don't use sliced deli turkey for this recipe. If you don't want cook a whole turkey, just buy a breast and cook it. I like a lot of tomatoes and added more. If after making the Hot Browns you have more left-over turkey, make some Turkey a la King, or a Turkey Pot Pie. You can also try other cheeses if you like. If I ever make this again, I would cut out 1 cup of heavy cream and use 1 cup of chicken stock in it's place.
To make the Hot Brown you're going to practice your sauce making skills, and prepare a Mornay sauce, which is nothing more than a Béchamel sauce (a Mother sauce), with cheese added to it. Once you've mastered the Béchamel sauce, you will be ready to impressing your family and friends with your culinary skills (see alternate sauce at the end.)
Pour sauce over turkey
Melt the butter in a two-quart saucepan. Once melted, slowly whisk in flour until combined to form a thick paste or roux. Continue to cook roux for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino-Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
After a visit in the broiler
For each Hot Brown, place layers of bread in an oven safe dish and cover with turkey slices. Place the tomato halves next to the turkey. Pour half of the sauce over the bread, completely covering it. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from the broiler and cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley and serve immediately.
Alternate sauce: To make the Mornay sauce, using a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Stir for another minute to remove the starch taste. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the cream and chicken stock. Return to the heat and bring to a boil, while stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and stir until the mixture thickens. Stir in cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. Season to your taste.
Turkey a la King
The Hot Brown reminded me of the 60's classics like Chipped Beef on Toast (SOS), Eggs a la Goldenrod, Turkey a la King, or the classic Welsh Rarebit.
If you're not a turkey lover you can pick up a rotisserie, or baked chicken.  Another use of left-over beef, chicken or turkey was the classic open-faced sandwich, served with left-over mashed potatoes, smothered in rich gravy.
Open-faced sandwich
The recipe called for "Texas toast" for the Hot Brown. I decided to get a loaf of bread from the local bakery and cut it myself. What I should have done was get a loaf of real Texas toast which is a softer bread. Mine was much heavier than it should have been because of the bread. 
After WWII nothing was wasted. In our family, we ate left-overs. If you've got a minute and this reminds you of any of your family favorites leave a comment below.  

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