Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cookin' Cajun in Chicago

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

One of the best parts about the USA to me is the regional eating from coast to coast from the border towns of Canada to the Mexico border. There are so many different types of food specialties across all 50 states as well as specific cuisine's that originated from the family's who relocated to America and used the areas produce and resources to make food unique to that region. One of the best culinary experiences in the USA is the Cajun & Creole cuisine of Louisiana.

I love Cajun food and on a trip to New Orleans right before the hurricane I learned how much I love food travel. I haven't been on a trip since that did not revolve around food in some way or another since. When I lived in Madison I had weekly visits to New Orleans Takeout which is one of Madison's best restaurants for good eats. We don't really have anything in Chicago close to as good as NOTO let alone the real deal down south. So when this is the case I just do it myself. My goal is to become a better than good Cajun cook. Nothing is quite as fragrant as the aroma of Cajun cooking on a cold Sunday afternoon while watching football.

KingT's Cajun wangs (recipe coming soon)

First thing your going to want to do is make your own hot sauce for the all the meals you make in the future. Here is a Tabasco style sauce I created with a batch of fresh grown hot peppers from Uncle Gary. You can use any type of hot red peppers that you can come across.

Uncle Gary's Hot Peppers Hot Sauce (makes about 6 cups)

2 lb's of red chili peppers
2-3 cups of Borinquen homemade vinegar or regular white
half on an onion chopped down
3 garlic cloves
Cajun seasoning

Combine the chile's, garlic, onions and the vinegar so that everything is just covered in a saucepan and heat.

Stir in the salt and seasoning and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool, and place in a blender.

Puree until smooth and place in a glass jar and allow to steep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Remove, strain the sauce, and adjust the consistency by adding more vinegar if necessary.

KingT's Tabasco style hot sauce

The sauce came out a spicy bright orange very thin sauce that I cant stop using on everything I eat now. Its not super hot so don't be scared to make yourself a batch. Just don't be surprised when your addicted to it. I already know that this sauce would make a great buffalo sauce coating for wings so Ill be trying those soon.

New Orleans Take Out (two locations)
1920 Fordem Ave
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 241-6655

Friday, November 28, 2008

Egg's in Hell

--That Tex-Mex Crave (Recipes)

If you have a friend or relative who likes cookbooks then I have the perfect book for them this holiday season. I am one of those people who owns 50+ cookbooks that fit my taste. One of my favorite styles of regional eating is Tex-Mex but there is so little known about it and it is perceived as the bastard child to Mexican cuisine. Believe it or not theres a whole lot more to Tex-Mex than just burritos and nachos with pickled jalapeños and yellow cheese. If you want to learn the real scoop on this fascinating cuisine then the best reference guide to check out is "The Tex-Mex cookbook" by Robb Walsh. This is one of my all time favorite cookbooks. What I love about it is how authentic it is, the stories, photos and recipes with stories behind those recipes are so real you almost feel like a lifelong native of Texas after owning it for a couple years.

The Tex-Mex cookbook

I purchased this book a few years ago and have been using it like a bible for my quest to become an expert in Tex-Mex. It is my dream to one day open Chicago's first and only real Tex-Mex restaurant. Complete with great plates of food, a party atmosphere, music, outdoor seating and of course homemade margarita's. Look out for "T's Tex-Mex Inn" in the next decade. I am going to use my site to let others join in and see and read about my Tex-Mex experiment. Please keep in mind, I am by no means an amateur I have been preparing Mexican food for over 10 years now and its really helped the last couple years blending that into Tex-Mex cooking.

First up is a breakfast recipe perfect for a hangover or any campfire cooks that might be looking for something new.

Robb points out that: ""Ox eyes" or "eggs in hell" are among the colorful names for eggs poached in hot sauce."

Ox Eyes (Serves 2)
Recipe source: Robb Walsh (Tex-Mex Cookbook)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
one 15 ounce can pureed tomatoes
4 eggs
4 flour tortillas, warmed
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. add the onions and peppers and chiles and saute until translucent. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. (The sauce should be runny and fill the pan to the depth of an inch, if it s too solid add water.) Salt to taste.

Stir the sauce well and then gently break the eggs into the pan. Cover and allow to cook for 4 minutes or until the egg whites are well set but the yolks are still soft, or to desired doneness. Sprinkle fresh ground pepper on each egg.

Eggs poaching in salsa

To serve, put 2 tortillas on each plate. Gently lift the eggs out of the pan and place one on each tortilla. Spoon the sauce around the egg's and serve with refried beans.

one helluva breakfast taco

Bonus Recipe: KingT's Refried Beans

2 cans of pinto beans or a combo of pinto and chili beans

--I have to use the Kuner's southwestern brand available at TI. I like to use a combo of their pinto beans, chili beans and ranchero beans.

four slices of bacon

3/4 cup of chopped onion/jalapeño

Cook the bacon till crisp and remove. Saute the onion/peppers mixture in the bacon grease until browned and add the cans of beans reserving some of the liquid.


Let the beans cook thru and mash everything together with a potato masher and add the chopped up bacon and top with cheese.

Note: reserved liquid can be used to get the consistency you prefer.



West Texas stacked enchiladas

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gyro melt from CND gyros

-The Sammy's of Chi

Did anyone happen to read the Chicago Tribune lunches in the loop photo gallery story? They gave 25 different places where you can eat lunch if you are shopping or working downtown. How many of these places take out ad's in the Tribune? Most people will tell you that downtown for the most part is a dining dump and its flooded with chains and spots with high end prices and low end quality aimed at taking tourists money. I was shocked not to find a few spots on that list that more than belonged in the good lunch category, I don't know maybe its because you can get out of there spending under $10.

ATTN: Tribune, Where is CND?!?!?!

Tucked below Michigan ave is crowd favorite CND

CND gyros is a place that I hadn't been to since I used to roam downtown with my friends on off days in grade school. In fact I had totally forgotten about it until I read an amazing description of it on the internet over at LTHforum. I cant do close to a better job describing this place, so here is what I read.

"Tucked underneath the Michigan Avenue hustle-bustle, surrounded by construction sites building huge, modern condos, and in an area where many restaurants seem more consumed with selling the latest trend at high prices than with serving a good, honest, affordable meal, CND Gyros stands as a lone soldier in the fight to maintain a certain "realness" in the neighborhood." KennyZ - a poster at LTHForum

CND is a time warp and another one of Chicago's gyro places that hasn't changed a bit over time. CND has better food than all those chains like Panera and Popeye's that are flooded at lunchtime downtown. One of the best things about this place is the menu and how long it extends with good options. If you want a cold one to go with your lunch then by all means have one at CND. One day I will get you a review of the gyros dinner on my gyrotron but today its all about the gyro melt.

The gyro melt is just another sandwich born and raised in Chicago. The gyros at CND are some of the better tasting and prepared gyros in the city. They also do a fantastic gyro melt which is gyro meat tucked between two slices of toasted Texas sized bread and topped with grilled onions and good old processed yellow cheese. C'mon you know that its good even if it sounds like you could croke any second after eating one. The only thing that this sandwich was missing is bacon. I now have a place to eat when I must head down to Michigan ave to do whatever it is tourists do. Whether your a local or a visitor, CND is right for a quick good lunch at a more than affordable price.

CND Gyros & Lounge
205 E Grand Ave - At N St Clair St
Chicago, IL 60611
312 467-4195

Cnd Gyros on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Fried Chicken King

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals eat & KingT's Wing Fling

Buffalo, New York is the birthplace of buffalo wing's and the city that made the wing thee thing of bar food. Over here in Chicago chicken wings come in all variety's and not just buffalo. I will bring you the best spots around town to consume all sorts of different variations of chicken wings. The most well known name in fried chicken is KFC and Colonel Sanders' original recipe. In Chicago Colonel Sanders is just that...a colonel. The King of fried chicken is Harold's chicken shack, another Chicago original. The 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama is a huge Harold's chicken fan.

The old Harold's #2

Harold's on 53rd

Harold's is a Chicago institution from the south side that is known for its perfectly made fried chicken and for the unique experience of eating at a real deal shack, which is what most of them are. You see not one Harold's is the same, even though they all have the same great fried chicken other stuff varies from store to store. Harold wanted each of his franchises to stamp their own personality on each store so that they didn't all fit the same mold. One thing thats common at all the Harold's I have been to is the bulletproof glass between you and the server. The genius of Harold's developed out of the fact that the larger fast food chains tended to avoid African American neighborhoods back in his day. Harold's became a player on the south side in 1950 and hasn't looked back since. Harold's has the best fried wings in Chicago and once you pop one you really cant stop. Simply amazing.

Warning: Clicking pic will cause you to drool: Harold's perfectly fried wings with hot and mild

What makes this place so good? well aside from the love Harold had for his place they use a combination to fry the chicken in half beef tallow and half vegetable oil as opposed to just veggie oil. Chicago style fried chicken is a gangload of hot sauce and mild BBQ sauce poured over the chicken and fries with a piece or two of white bread to pick at with and keep your fingers clean or make a sandwich out of with some chicken and skin. DonBarzinini will tell you that the Harold's chicken on 53rd in Hyde Park, basically in Barack Obamas backyard is the best shack in the city. Over the years Harold's has grown from a mom and pop chicken shack on Chicago's south side into a small chain with spots all over Chicagoland and locations in Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Dallas. The product does vary at each location so share with me your go to Harold's in the comments section. Thanks.

Overheard at Harold's on 53rd "Y'all need to put a little Amen spot in the corner up here, cause after we taste this chicken, we need to go talk to Jesus." No Joke its that good (Pictured: 1/2 Dark meal)

Just like Mike Mills brought Bill Clinton ribs on Air Force One, I think we will be hearing about Harold Pierce's son delivering President Obama with some wings one day while he is in office. The crave will be too much for him to resist and he'll put in a call for some Chicago style chicken from the oval office to kill that crave.

From abcnews via an interview on 60 minutes: Obama and the future first lady Michelle Obama talked about their looming life in the bubble of the White House with CBS' "60 Minutes" over the weekend. They looked back at where they came from, including such highlights as Obama's old Chicago bachelor pad near Harold's Chicken Shack.

"That was a dump," Michelle Obama recalled.

"Oh come on, it wasn't that bad, I lived right next door to Harolds" Barack Obama

Harold's Chicken Shack
Locations throughout Chicago

Harold's Chicken Shack on 53rd
1208 E 53rd Street
Chicago, IL 60615

Harold's Chicken Shacks on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thee Food Fest of Middle America

Eating like a local: Regional food specialties
-The West Side Nut Club Fall Fest in Evansville, IN

On a recent trip to hog heaven down in Southern Illinois this past October, one of the reasons for cruising down there was to experience one of the more unique food festivals in the nation. The West Side Nut Club fall fest just celebrated its 84th year in Evansville, IN. The festival is held yearly during the first full weekend in October and it is known for its more uncommon food items. Now im not talking about "salad of endives with crispy potato's, basil, dijon, pancetta and a poached egg." Some of the more bizzare items to be eaten include chocolate covered crickets, kool-aid brined pickles, brain sandwiches, fried just about anything including but not limited to pineapple, dandelions and olives and also Kentucky specialties: mutton and burgoo. When it was all eaten and over it was a very fun experience and the food was better than your run of the mill celebration, this isn't your local towns annual summer carnival.

WSNC (Evansville, IN)

I come from the city of festivals and I will say that as a lifelong Chicagoan who is sick of the "Taste of Chicago" and what it is (not good) that this was one of the better food fest's I have been to. Keep in mind that this is the exact opposite of the "Aspen food & wine festival" in both food and people. Sometimes pictures tell 1000 words and that is going to be the case in this post. Here are some photos from the 2008 West Side Nut Club Fall Fest in Evansville, IN. I have to say the WSNC fall fest is one of the better eating festivals in the country. I say this because you wont find any corporate food outlets because all of the booths are non-for-profit organizations.

Fried salsa & cheese stuffed black olives/fried mac & cheese

Cajun sausage

Bugs in your lollipop on purpose

Homemade stromboli's

Dumplings of all variety are very popular

One of the more amusing items- a walking taco: a waffle cone stuffed with taco meat and topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese, salsa and sour cream

Fried donut on a stick dipped in chocolate topped with whipped cream and nuts (Jeff Barzin)

mmmmm (Jeff Barzin)

Indiana's state sandwich (oversized fried pork tenderloin w/ pickles, mustard, onions)

Desserts are plentiful at the festival

Packed at high noon on Day 1 (a Thursday)

Monte Cristo Sandwich (Served with jam-click for info on sandwich)

Fried pork tenderloin sandwich

Monte cristo (ham, turkey and cheese in bread-then breaded and deep fried)

the famous brain sandwich

ask Jeff Barzin

deep fried everything

These were really good. Bars around town should should start serving them complimentary.

Pulled Pork from a big green egg

Hot Tamales!

Pretty, Pretty, Good

Steak sandwich

Brat Burgers, banana canoes, Root Beer Floats, pretzel stix dipped in white chocolate

Chocolate dipped bacon

Freid Green Beans and fried ravioli

Corn Fritters

a popular festival food item

Muddy pig's

Whats a food fest without pie?

close up of corn fritter (amazing when dipped in the syrup)

Cajun cuisine

ask Jeff Barzin

no time for rides...must eat

apple dumpling with ice cream (Jeff Barzin)

Evansville has a heavy German population

Whiskey and Cider make a nice pairing (great w/o whiskey too)

Cotton Candy...always popular

Hot ham and everything

Some of the best onion rings I have had

West Side Nut Club planning their take over of the East side acorn crew

NO? Not Kermit! Why is he missing a leg?

encased meat and onions...a match made in heaven

Shaved Ice...another festival favorite

Smoked bacon wrapped jalapeño stuffed with cheese

ribbit, ribbit...crunch, crunch...frog legs

one of the better sandwiches at the fair

Kool-aid brined pickles


Deep fried oreo's and twankies for dessert (Jeff Barzin)

Blueberry pie with a scoop of ice cream (Jeff Barzin)

If you enjoyed this and the Southern IL BBQ trail tour then stay tuned. During my three days down there we managed to get over to Kentucky for some BBQ right after we left the fall fest. Regional report coming soon. For more info on the WSNC FF check out their website.

West Side Nut Club Website


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